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    New York Times: Chinese Learn Limits of Online Freedom as the Filter Tightens

    An interesting story from the New York Times about continuing Internet censorship in China.

    Since early January, the government has been waging a decency campaign that has closed more than 1,500 Web sites found to contain sex, violence or “vulgarity.” Numerous other sites, including Google, have responded by removing any pages that might offend puritanical sensibilities.

    But indecency is often in the eye of the beholder. Last month, Bullog, a popular bastion for freewheeling bloggers, was shut down for what the authorities said were its “large amounts of harmful information on current events,” according to a notice posted by the site’s founder, Luo Yonghao. […]

    While some see the monthlong crackdown as a portent of increasing government restrictions on electronic expression, those who follow China’s evolving relationship with the Internet say it is too soon to tell.

    “The authorities tighten the screws every few months, and some periods are tighter than others, so this is nothing new,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley.

    But the wild card this time, Mr. Xiao and others say, is an economic downturn that has the potential to put the Communist Party’s oversight of online content to a new test. For years, China has tried to strike a balance between allowing vigorous growth of the Web and preventing it from becoming a tool for undermining party rule. But popular anger against official corruption or ineptitude may become harder to contain in an era of economic pain. […]

    The Web has become a forum for public activism that would be speedily suppressed, or widely ignored, if it occurred offline. In recent months, a spate of vigilante campaigns have been waged against low-level officials accused of corruption or unseemly behavior.

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