In a speech given this past February at an invitation-only Index event, Index 2016 Digital Awards Fellow GreatFire asked the audience whether “the global internet is bringing free speech, or is China bringing censorship to the global internet?”
Trying to do its part in bringing free speech to Chinese internet users, the anonymous nonprofit recently launched its Patreon crowdfunding campaign on March 30.
In the wake of the March National People’s Congress, which swept away presidential term limits, and Apple’s deal to have state-owned enterprise Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD) host its data, the fight against Chinese censorship is facing an uncertain future.
“Xi Jinping wants to make sure that all criticism, at home and abroad, can be silenced,” said Charlie Smith, GreatFire co-founder.
Apple is helping Xi Jinping and the Communist Party do just that, according to Smith. In the February speech, GreatFire said, “China’s Communist Party has surprised everyone by becoming experts at censorship technology.”
Smith wouldn’t be surprised if “Apple shared private user information about Apple customers outside of China with the Chinese authorities, in cases where those users may be ‘stirring up trouble’ against China.”
GreatFire’s February speech also cited that “when pressured by a letter from two US senators last year, Apple admitted to having censored more than 700 apps just in the VPN category.”
“Apple is working hand-in-hand with the Chinese authorities to implement censorship, not just in China, but around the world,” said Smith. “At the moment, this mainly affects Chinese [customers] but the writing is on the wall – all Apple customers will soon find that it will become increasingly more difficult and perhaps impossible to access negative information about the ruling Communist Party and party officials.”
However, Smith hopes other big-name companies like Google will re-enter China’s market without having to censor and not follow Apple’s footsteps. In 2010, Google shut down its operations after Chinese human-rights activists had their Gmails hacked, and the company has yet to come back.
“Google has the technical know-how, the expertise and the money to be able to offer an uncensored version of its search engine to an audience in China,” said Smith. “Google has the power to offer a 100% uncensored service to China’s 700 million plus internet users. If we can do it, they can do it.”