Fahrenheit 451: Burning through the Great Firewall of China

Author:Marina Sechenova
Position:St. Thomas University School of Law
Pages:283-314
SUMMARY

The Internet has unarguably changed our paradigm of social interaction, perceptions, and norms, and will continue to affect future generations as it evolves. Through content regulation, nations are able to manipulate the way that paradigm shifts and thus, both directly and incidentally, control our future. This paper will assess how the ideologically polar opposites United States and China... (see full summary)

 
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e Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law
ISSN: 2338-7602; E-ISSN: 2338-770X
http://www.ijil.org
© 2014 e Institute for Migrant Rights Press
e author would like to thank her Professor Roy Balleste, Professor of Law and Director
of the Law Library at St. omas University School of Law, for all his help, patience, and
eorts in educating the author and helping her ensure a thorough article on this intricate
topic.
fahrEnhEit 451
Burning through thE grEat firEwall of China
Marina Sechenova
St. omas University School of Law
E-mail: msechenova@gmail.com
The Internet has unarguably changed our paradigm of social interaction,
perceptions, and norms, and will continue to affect future generations as it
evolves. Through content regulation, nations are able to manipulate the way
that paradigm shifts and thus, both directly and incidentally, control our fu-
ture. This paper will assess how the ideologically polar opposites United
States and China regulate the Internet, what content both nations regulate,
and whether regulation of that content is possible and desirable. Inspired by
the recent events at the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, China,
in which the Chinese government attempted to show a faux sense of open-
ness, transparency and freedom of their Internet, the topic of Internet content
regulation is crucial to all global citizens. This paper will rst focus on the
birth and infrastructure of the Internet, followed by the intricacies of tech-
nical and legal modes of Internet content regulation. It will then present the
approaches of several legal theories that have been presented by various
scholars who are pro and against Internet content regulation. Lastly, it will
evaluate those approaches and present an alternate way of how United States
and China should approach Internet content regulation as to minimally over-
step their powers and minimize harm to the freedom of expression and priva-
cy of their citizens.
Keywords: Information and Technology Law, Internet Governance, International
Law, Cyber Law, Freedom of Information.
III Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law 283-314 (April 2016)
284
Sechenova
I. INTRODUCTION
In today’s world, information technology is an essential feature of hu-
manity. In fact, it has become more pervasive in today’s society that it
has ever before. Citizens of all ages and races depend on information
technology as instantaneous source of information, which is powered
by the Internet. is network connects all of us in any country or con-
tinent to every kind of piece of information imaginable, in turn, merg-
ing our cultures together and facilitating the exchange of information
around the globe. Simply put, the Internet has unarguably changed our
paradigm of social interaction, perceptions, and norms, and will con-
tinue to aect future generations as it evolves. It is no surprise that one
study, for example, nds that digital media plays signicant role in the
democratization movement across North Africa and Middle East.1 In
a sense, the Internet is at the forefront of the crusade for a free world.
However, just like all things in life, the Internet is a double-edged
sword. On the one hand, the Internet provides us with vast amounts
of educational and recreational information, while on the other it is
utilized as a means of perpetuating cybercrime and illegal activity. It is
because of the immeasurable scope of the ability and potential of the
Internet that countries attempt to regulate their citizens cyber activities.
More specically, the Internet, as “the Arab Spring” has shown,2 has
potential to be an important catalyst in the introduction of political
change. In light of its liberalizing potential, many illiberal governments
engage in many futile attempts to block the undesirable contents. e
most extreme example is the notorious North Korea, where Internet is
exclusively intended for an elite few.3
In this paper I will assess how the ideologically polar opposites
United States and China regulate the Internet, what content both
nations regulate, and whether regulation of that content is possible and
desirable. I believe that it is a crucial topic to discuss because what we
1. Philip N. Howard &Muzammil M. Hussain, e Role of Digital Media, 22 J. 
D 35-48 (2011).
2. See Id.
3. Matthew Sparkes, Internet in North Korea, T T (Dec. 23, 2014),
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/11309882/Internet-in-North-Korea-
everything-you-need-to-know.html.
285
Fahrenheit 451: Burning through the Great Firewall of China
Sechenova
see on the Internet directly shapes our cultures, beliefs, and ultimately,
society. More importantly, through content regulation, countries are
able to manipulate the way that paradigm shis and thus, in a way,
control our future. I believe that this topic is particularly signicant
in light of recent events at the World Internet Conference (“WIC”) in
Wuzhen, China, in which the Chinese government blatantly attempted
to mislead the global participants of the Conference that their policies
of Internet governance are “multilateral, democratic, and transparent”4
through the use of various tactics, such as giving the participants of
the Conference their own Xiaomi Mi Note LTE tablets and granting
them with Wi-Fi access to pages that are normally blocked for Chinese
citizens.5
As such, I will rst concentrate on the background of the birth
of the Internet and how it evolved, which will help shed light on the
technical and legal modes of how Internet content can be controlled
and regulated, followed by examples of how both ways are executed
in the United States and China. I will then explain the arguments of
how proponents and opponents of Internet content regulation view
it and illustrate how dierent nations have taken various approaches
to regulate the information on the Internet and suggestions of various
legal scholars and theories. Conclusively, I will evaluate the approaches
and present a conclusion, in which I will suggest a third way of how
United States and China should approach Internet content regulation as
to minimally overstep their powers and minimize harm to the freedom
of expression and privacy of their citizens.
II. THE MANY SIDES OF THE DOUBLE-
EDGED SWORD
ere are a multitude of multifaceted and complex problems with Inter-
net content regulation. Although the Internet itself is an international
phenomenon that is controlled and regulated by multiple stakeholders,
4. I G P, e Wuzhen Compradors, (Dec. 29, 2015),
http://www.internetgovernance.org/2015/12/29/the-chinese-netmundial-ini-
tiative/.
5. Id.

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