Academic excellence needs cyber freedom within law

By Liu Zhun Source:Global Times Published: 2016-6-2 23:52:35

A report by China Science Daily has ignited a public debate about Chinese Internet censorship. At a just-concluded conference attended by experts from two top-notch Chinese scientific and engineering academies, several gray-haired academics spoke out against the rigid supervision of cyberspace, asking for a relaxation of rules for the convenience of academic research.

The report said the outspoken academics were applauded by most participants, who might have met the same trouble during their scientific research. The unanimous response warrants a deeper consideration of China's cyberspace regulation.

The fast-growing Internet offers a boundless platform where ideas and thoughts can spread to the corner of the world at the speed of light. It has greatly reshaped and streamlined people's lives, but also posed unprecedented threats to national security, both in traditional and non-traditional spheres, such as ideology.

Thus, how to regulate cyberspace in case it is abused by the wrong hands has become a global challenge. It is controversial, but many governments are engaging in the endeavor in one way or another. China is one of the countries that has discerned the negative side of the Internet, and adopted active Internet regulation measures.

Although the direction is right, some specific measures probably need a second thought. Some one-size-fits-all measures have caused damage to normal use of the Internet. Blocking some websites outright prevents Chinese scientists from catching up with the latest advances in particular subjects. This will be a closed-door scenario for these experts, and put Chinese scientific development in a disadvantaged position.

Cyberspace regulation is not a black-or-white choice: either block a website or green-light it. More nuanced measures are needed to regulate the Internet as they deliver better results. Most widely used foreign websites might contain some information that is inappropriate from China's perspective, but forbidding their connections with the most populous country will not lead to the most optimal results.

Cyberspace regulation requires precise law enforcement. Popular foreign websites should be allowed in the Chinese market on the condition that they must obey Chinese laws. This is an agreement both the Chinese authorities and these IT companies should try to achieve. Law-based interaction will be beneficial to both sides. Take the EU's investigation into Google. The search giant is about to pay a massive fine of 3 billion euros ($3.36 billion) for monopolistic practices. But Google is unlikely to quit the market. What the authorities should do is put the shoe on the right foot.

In order to include foreign websites into China's cyberspace regulation, and ask them to cooperate, the Chinese authorities should focus on the details in the process of making laws and policies, calibrating the intensity of the policies if necessary.

Posted in: Observer

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