On Saturday 16th March 2008, the government of China blocked access to YouTube in order to prevent videos of the unrest in Tibet from being viewed by Internet users in mainland China. YouTube showed several clippings of the pro-Tibetan-sovereignty protests, taking place in Lhasa.
Protests erupted in Lhasa the capital of Tibet, against the Chinese government. The Chinese government blocked the popular video-sharing website YouTube to restrict the public from getting information on the protests. Soon after, access to other sites such as Yahoo!, Google News, the Guardian UK, The Times Online and the BBC was either completely cut off or selectively filtered.
The Chinese government usually encourages the use of the Internet for educational and business purposes, but has placed online filters to regularly block access to any foreign material that they feel is inappropriate or objectionable. Chinese websites such as youku.com, tudou.com and 56.com have not published any information about the protests in Tibet as theses sites are expected to enforce self-censorship.
Chinese users trying to access YouTube, just found a blank screen. The government has made no official statement about this move. Interestingly, today YouTube has almost as many videos depicting opposition to the Tibetan protests as it has of protesters against the Chinese government.
Video on YouTube showing protests in Tibet
This is the second time in less than a month that an Eastern government has blocked access to YouTube. In the last week of February, the government of Pakistan had ordered the national ISP to block access to YouTube, leading to the site going down worldwide due to a propogation error.
While the Internet allows individuals from all over the world to share their thoughts and experiences, it also allows more and more people in the world to become aware of the plight of others. Stamping out free speech by banning video sharing sites and newspapers might cocoon the citizens of China temporarily, but in the long run, the Chinese government will end up hurting its own credibility in the West.