Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry

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The Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry is an agreement between the Chinese internet industry regulator and companies that operate sites in China. In signing the agreement, web companies are pledging to identify and prevent the transmission of information that Chinese authorities deem objectionable, including information that “breaks laws or spreads superstition or obscenity”, or that “may jeopardize state security and disrupt social stability”.[1][2][3]

Origins and purpose[edit]

The pledge was created in 2002 by the Internet Society of China, a self-governing Chinese internet industry body,[4] and within a month of launch had been signed by more than 100 Chinese web companies such as Baidu, Soseen, Sina, and Sohu, as well as by Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Chinese government offices.[5][6] The pledge contains four chapters and 31 articles covering four “principles of self-discipline for the Internet industry”—patriotism, observance of the law, fairness, and trustworthiness.[7] Signing it is officially optional, but without having signed it firms are ineligible to receive a Chinese Internet Content Provider license, which is required to obtain a .cn domain.[8]

Current status[edit]

As of 2006, the pledge had been signed by more than 3,000 entities operating websites in China.[9]


The pledge has been criticized by human rights and freedom of expression organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and American firms have been criticized as compromising American values related to freedom of speech in order to make money by signing it.[10]

Non-Chinese web companies[edit]

Non-Chinese web companies maintain that in order to do business in China they must comply with local laws and regulations, that access to censored information is better than no information at all, and that their presence in China will support economic development leading to political change. But, critics argue their activities are facilitating and sanctioning government censorship rather than challenging it.[11][12]

In 2002 Yahoo signed the pledge.[13] Two years later, it disclosed to the Chinese government that journalist Shi Tao had sent an e-mail to a New York-based site containing notes from a Chinese government directive on how to handle the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.[14] Shi Tao was then arrested, convicted, and given a 10-year prison term on a charge of divulging state secrets.[15] This earned Yahoo! significant criticism from Reporters Without Borders and others, including a statement by the chair of the United States House Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Lantos that while Yahoo is technologically and financially “giants”, “morally you are pygmies”.[16]

In 2005 Microsoft signed the pledge. Later in 2005, it deleted from Windows Live Spaces the blog of Chinese journalist and political blogger Jing Zhao, who was known for his writings about freedom of the press in China. The incident made headlines around the world and contributed to ongoing debates about the role of Western companies in China’s censorship system.[17]

In 2006 Google signed the pledge and then launched a censored version of its search engine, called, inside China. Before, users in China had only been able to reach Google by going through small sometimes-unreliable local service providers. Establishing means that for the first time users in China could reach Google directly, making the user experience faster and more reliable. But the move was controversial inside and outside of Google, and on March 23, 2010, Google shut down[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Einhorn and Ben Elgin, Bruce (23 January 2006). "The Great Firewall Of China". Businessweek. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  2. ^ Kine, Phelim (27 May 2010). "China's Internet Crackdown". Forbes. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  3. ^ Alfred, Hermida (3 September 2002). "Behind China's internet Red Firewall". BBC. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  4. ^ Tai, Zixue (2006). The Internet in China: cyberspace and civil society. New York: Routledge. p. 101. ISBN 0-415-97655-3.
  5. ^ Crampton, Thomas (11 September 2002). "Approved sites may profit from blockage : Google's loss spells gain for Web firms in China". New York Times. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  6. ^ "Chinese sites agree to censor content". Guardian. 16 July 2002. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  7. ^ "China's Internet Industry Wants Self-Discipline". China People's Daily. 27 March 2002. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  8. ^ Hindley, Brian; Hosuk Lee-Makiyama (12 November 2009). "Protectionism Online: Internet Censorship and International Trade Law". European Centre for International Political Economy. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  9. ^ Karatzogianni, Athina (2006). The politics of cyberconflict. London: Routledge Taylor & Francis. p. 135. ISBN 0-415-39684-0.
  10. ^ "Undermining freedom of expression in China The role of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google" (PDF). Amnesty International UK The Human Rights Action Centre. July 2006.
  11. ^ Qiang, Xiao. "The Great Firewall of China". Committee to Protect Journalists. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  12. ^ "Undermining freedom of expression in China The role of Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google" (PDF). Amnesty International UK The Human Rights Action Centre. July 2006.
  13. ^ Lemon, Sumner (12 August 2002). "Yahoo Criticized for Curtailing Freedom Online". PC World. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  14. ^ Dowell, William (Summer 2006). "China's Great Digital Wall: Beijing Struggles to Control the Internet with a little Help from Silicon Valley". The Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
  15. ^ Kine, Phelim (27 May 2010). "China's Internet Crackdown". Forbes. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  16. ^ Associated Press (7 November 2007). "Yahoo Criticized in Case of Jailed Dissident". New York Times. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  17. ^ "Roundtable: The Struggle to Control Freedom". 11 April 2005.
  18. ^ Mellody, Michael (18 April 2010). "The Ethics of Google in China". Vann Center for Ethics at Davidson College.
  19. ^ Helft and David Barboza, Miguel (22 March 2010). "Google Shuts China Site in Dispute Over Censorship". New York Times. Retrieved 12 December 2011.