China has faced international criticism over reports that its officials are restricting speech and access to dissenting opinions on the nation’s internet.
Now, reports indicate the country is attempting to export that practice around the world through a series of seminars and other efforts to share its methods of restricting online expression.
As Fast Company reported this week, evidence shows Chinese officials have hosted foreign delegates for training.
Through this program, the nation reportedly couches its description of the practice in terms related to the curtailment of fake news.
The new claims stem from a report published by Freedom House, which compiled data regarding the state of online freedom around the world in 2018.
The report described one seminar held over a two-week period in China late last year.
“Visiting officials toured the headquarters of a company involved in ‘big data public-opinion management systems, including tools for real-time monitoring of negative public opinion and a ‘positive energy public-opinion guidance system,'” the report stated.
In May, Freedom House found that a group of journalists from the Philippines visited China to study “socialist journalism with Chinese characteristics” during another two-week conference.
A similar seminar involved training tailored for media officials from Thailand.
“A three-week ‘Seminar for Senior Media Staff in Arab Countries’ brought in representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates,” the report stated.
Another seminar that took place even earlier seemed to have influenced one nation’s policies, according to Freedom House’s data.
“While it is not always clear what transpires during such seminars, a training for Vietnamese officials in April 2017 was followed in 2018 by the introduction of a cybersecurity law that closely mimics China’s own law,” the report found.
A similar potential cause and effect was identified following a spike in communications between African and Chinese representatives.
That apparent collaboration “preceded the passage of restrictive cybercrime and media laws in Uganda and Tanzania over the past year,” according to the report.
Taken as a whole, Freedom House finds China’s trend of spreading its restrictions on online speech carries a major potential risk.
“This year, Beijing took steps to propagate its model abroad by conducting large-scale trainings of foreign officials, providing technology to authoritarian governments, and demanding that international companies abide by its content regulations even when operating outside of China,” the report’s authors determined. “These trends present an existential threat to the future of the open internet and prospects for greater democracy around the globe.”
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