The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively trying to control the Internet. That may sound like exaggerated scaremongering – but it’s not.
Every year, the Cyber Administration of China holds the World Internet Conference. According to Xi Jinping, the conference should focus on “global Internet development and governance.” This year’s conference took place last month.
Politico’s Phelim Kine recently wrote that the Chinese leader desperately wants “an internet consistent with the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s concept of cyber sovereignty.” Xi and his colleagues prioritize “absolute state control of online activity — complete with censorship and surveillance — at the expense of privacy and freedom of expression.” This shouldn’t particularly surprise anyone. After all, we are talking about communist China here.
Having lived in the country and witnessed the way Beijing governs, I speak from experience when I say the following: In China, citizens are monitored very closely; People’s online activities—every purchase, comment, and search online—are thoroughly examined. Now Xi wants to create a world where every government scrutinizes its citizens in a similar way, hence the founding of the World Internet Conference.
This conference is no ordinary event. It was attended by a number of prominent foreign CEOs, including Pat Gelsinger, head of Intel, and Elon Musk, head of Tesla. At the most recent conference, we are told, representatives from at least 18 countries and regions were present. This included Delegates from Afghanistan, Cambodia, North Korea and Syria – four countries synonymous with the word “authoritarianism”. Additionally, according to a CCP statement, this year’s conference was attended by dozens of “world-renowned Internet leaders, authoritative industry bodies, Internet Hall of Fame inductees and others.”
As Justin Sherman, a fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, told the aforementioned Kine, the CCP wants to do away with the multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance altogether. Instead, the CCP would much rather create a system that allows governments to exercise complete control over the way the Internet is governed. Although technically China cannot really control the internet, it can propagate its questionable philosophies through coercion and big promises. As more countries and influential tech gurus follow the Chinese model, the internet will become more like the internet in China.
If you happen to be a person reading this in the United States, for example, then you don’t need to worry, do you? Not correct. People do not have to live in China to have their profile monitored, their online movements tracked, and their comments censored.
Which brings us to Google, by far the most popular search engine out there. There are now 4.4 billion internet users; 4 billion of them are now using Google. In the United States, a country of 329 million people, at least 246 million use Google. Of course, there are other search engines out there – Mozilla, Firefox, Brave, DuckDuckGo, etc. – but they just can’t match the sheer power and appeal of Google. This is problematic on many levels.
As investigative journalist Alan MacLeod recently noted, Google is now filled to the brim with ex-CIA agents. The Silicon Valley colossus has hired a number of secret service professionals in recent years. Why? In short, “to work in politically highly sensitive areas”. These recruits, MacLeod noted, directly affect how we, the users, see the world “on their screens and in their search results.”
Some of the former CIA agents work in Google’s Trust and Security Division, a department dedicated to separating acceptable content from undesirable content. This is the department that sets Google’s rules of engagement; This is the department that determines what is shown (and not shown) on your screen when you search for a topic using Google.
Google is a company that has a history of spying on users and knowingly misleading the public. This is a company that uses “cookies” – no, not the delicious, diabetes-causing kind; the other inedible, highly invasive ones – to track users’ online activity. These small blocks of data are used to identify your computer. Even if your location is disabled, Google can still track you.
In March 2021, Google promised to end the use of invasive “cookies”. More than a year later, however, this promise remains completely unfulfilled. Chances are it will never be met. According to authors at Reclaim the Net, Google recently delayed plans to phase out the use of “cookies” until at least the second half of 2024. We are assured that Google is actively trying to find a “privacy-friendly” way to protect its users to pursue – a comforting thought for absolutely no one, I suppose. Remember, this is a company that has removed the “don’t be angry” clause from its code of conduct.
Which brings us back to China’s push to control the internet. In truth, there are no good options when it comes to our internet overlords. Whether Beijing or a big tech giant like Google, espionage and manipulation are the order of the day. Is Google as bad as the CCP? No of course not. Not exactly a shining example of impartiality and decency, though, is it?
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.