The much-publicized revolutionary spirit sweeping through the Middle East seems to have officials in China more than a little wary. Case in point: There is mounting evidence that phone calls in the country are being monitored and policed so that, at the second mention of the word “protest,” calls are automatically dropped – that goes for mentions in either English or Chinese dialects. According to The New York Times, not even quoting famous Shakespeare lines would get you off the hook.
Writing for the NY Times Sharon LaFraniere and David Barboza reports:
A Beijing entrepreneur, discussing restaurant choices with his fiancée over their cellphones last week, quoted Queen Gertrude’s response to Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” The second time he said the word “protest,” her phone cut off.
He spoke English, but another caller, repeating the same phrase on Monday in Chinese over a different phone, was also cut off in midsentence.
A host of evidence over the past several weeks shows that Chinese authorities are more determined than ever to police cellphone calls, electronic messages, e-mail and access to the Internet in order to smother any hint of antigovernment sentiment. In the cat-and-mouse game that characterizes electronic communications here, analysts suggest that the cat is getting bigger, especially since revolts began to ricochet through the Middle East and North Africa, and homegrown efforts to organize protests in China began to circulate on the Internet about a month ago.
In fact, people in China have noticed a string of interruptions lately, including trouble with Gmail, prompting Google to directly accused China of tampering with its email services. Others have reported encountering problems accessing the website for the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and LinkedIn. Popular sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have long been censored in China.
No word on the repercussions of bluntly informing your Chinese aunt that you find her cooking “revolting.”
h/t Philip Bump
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