Friday, January 7, 2011

Humorous Aside: Internet censorship in China

Article on issues with state-controlled internet usage in China.

In China, the number 8 is the luckiest number. The reason 8 is so lucky is because the word (bah) is synonymous with the Chinese word for rich. Toronto (Canada) has a huge Chinese-Canadian population and if you look at advertisements for new houses in Chinese dominant neighbourhoods, it is not uncommon for new homes to sell for prices such as $288,888. It is well-known to non-Chinese marketers who sell products to the Chinese community that listing prices with lots of instances of the number 8 in it is very good for business. Conversely, the number 4 is avoided at all costs because it is associated with the word for death.

In November, Spotlight-on-Science acquired a page view counter (formerly problemsinscience) which quickly reached the exciting milestone of 8,888 page views . . . well at least that's exciting to Spotlight-on-Science's editor/founder and to some Chinese people. It's gotta be super lucky!


Now this development is of potential interest to many Chinese people who would recognize the page view milestone as a particularly lucky happenstance. Unfortunately, back in May it was discovered that the Chinese internet censors have banned everyone in China from accessing Spotlight-on-Science. As Spotlight-on-Science's editor, I got irritated when I found this out (it nicely explained the site's lack of internet traffic from China) and wrote an article about it. Interestingly, after publishing that article Spotlight-on-Science received a small flurry of page views from Beijing where the website's address is banned. The most plausible explanation would seem to be that the Chinese internet censors checked out the website themselves after noticing that Spotlight-on-Science published an article that was unflattering regarding the Communist party of China's policies.

Incidentally, this website used to have comment boards for every article on the site but decided against continuing the comment boards because no one wants to be the comment board monitor / moderator (a necessary position as there are many whiny commentators out there). Incidentally, a common  type of comment was from a Chinese internet sex-chat service. It would seem that the Chinese internet sex-chat comments were all coming from a bot (a computer program in this case tasked with the job of drawing traffic to these particular sex-chat sites). Although it was advertising for a Chinese language site I assume that the bot itself was located outside of China since it wasn't contributing any page views from mainland China. Maybe I should have checked - the bot might have been located in the free Chinese state of Taiwan which has contributed substantial page views to Spotlight-on-Science.

Jacob Levman