China reviews open internet for Olympics

The Chinese government has promised Olympic athletes free access to social media platforms and other websites in Beijing’s Olympic Village, but internet use may still be fraught with restrictions and risks.

why does it matter: Experts say China’s goal in temporarily opening the “Great Firewall” is simply to bolster its global reputation ahead of games, not to defend the open internet. They expect that online activity will continue to be closely monitored, even for visitors who are allowed to access sites that would otherwise be blocked.

  • “It’s a way for China to easily spread positive narratives about the Beijing Olympics, amid all its human rights criticism,” said Kenton Thibaut, a resident Chinese fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Laboratory.

what are they saying: said Victor Cha, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

what do you want to watch: “Although it does allow access to social media, I don’t think any athlete would tweet something about Hong Kong or Taiwan,” Cha said.

  • “They will work with the IOC to crack down on any athlete who says anything, and then they will rely on the Games to capture everyone’s imagination,” he said.

playing condition: Chinese authorities have said that Olympic participants and foreign media will have uncensored access to the Internet through special SIM cards.

  • The US Olympic Organizing Committee is warning athletes and officials that “performing important tasks and personal contacts will be difficult at best while working in China,” according to a technology advisory shared with athletes and national sports regulatory bodies.
  • “[I]It should be assumed that all data and communications in China can be monitored, hacked or blocked,” the document states.

What can the athletes say? On the Internet from Beijing, that’s another matter.

  • The International Olympic Committee has promoted athletes’ right to free speech online as long as they do not violate local laws, but Chinese law gives authorities the flexibility to block any online speech they consider illegal.
  • Chinese athletes will face intense scrutiny; Chinese authorities have arrested dozens of Chinese citizens for content they posted on foreign social media. But it is not clear how the authorities view non-Chinese citizens who post freely on foreign websites.
  • Chinese authorities also frequently use market access bans to punish the speech of non-Chinese citizens.

Context: Several governments, including the United States, have announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics due to the Chinese government’s ongoing genocide against the Uyghur population in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

  • Activists and rights groups have urged corporate sponsors to pressure Beijing over Xinjiang’s policies and withdraw their sponsorship.
  • Chinese broadcasting platforms dropped the Boston Celtics games after Center Enes Kanter called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator” on social media in October 2021. The Houston Rockets also disappeared from the Chinese internet after General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong 2019 protests.

Also, just because Athletes can go online in China, which doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take precautions.

  • “if [athletes] They use their provided Wi-Fi, they will just have to assume that everything they do is being monitored.”
  • Security experts recommend using a separate phone, virtual private network, and SIM cards not provided by China, and avoiding logging into services or sharing other sensitive information.

recovery: At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, journalists discovered they could not access many of the sites, despite repeated promises to the International Olympic Committee and Chinese officials with unrestricted access to the Internet before the games began. The IOC later admitted that it had agreed to some of the web’s restrictions.

what are they saying: Some unidentified athletes told the New York Times in December that they feared publicly criticizing the Chinese government for fear of reprisals.

  • But some talk anyway. “Silence means being complicit,” Claire Egan, a biological athlete from Maine, told The Times.
  • American duo skater Timothy Leduc said on Sunday that Uyghurs in China are facing an “appalling” situation. “I read somewhere a few days ago that this is the largest number of people held in concentration and labor camps since World War II,” Leduc said.

Bottom line: “The Chinese government has the tools and capabilities to track and monitor what athletes are up to and what they say, and they are not afraid to use coercive measures if they feel it is necessary,” said Stephen Feldstein, a senior fellow at Carnegie International. Hello.

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