In a move that has been interpreted as yet another violation of privacy rights, the Chinese government has announced a campaign against pornography that will include automatic scanning of text messages for “illegal or unhealthy content”, and the suspension of services for those who are found guilty of spreading such content.
According to The New York Times, the messages will be scanned for key words given to the cellular providers by the police, but what they are is undisclosed. While it is logical that they wouldn’t go public with the list, the fact also invites speculation about a hidden agenda behind the scanning, since China is infamous for violating human rights.
The people are incensed, and rightly so. “They are doing wide-ranging checks, checking anything and everything, even if it is between a husband and wife,” says Kan Kaili, a professor of telecommunications at Beijing University. SMSs are supposed to be private.
But, what is really the most interesting thing about this whole situation is the fact that five years ago China already started monitoring text messages and shutting down accounts for the exactly the same reason – “unhealthy content”. So why the public shock and outcry? Do we really have that short a memory? Or does the recent Chinese hackers’ attacks against American companies might have something to do with it?