How China’s open source censorship can backfire


For now, there are few clues as to what prompted the change, but censorship of certain types of language — profanity, pornography, and politically sensitive words — has emerged on an open platform. time. On the official and public of Gitee feedback pagehave many users complain about how projects are censored for unclear reasons, possibly because technical language is mistaken for a sensitive word.

The immediate result of Gitee’s May 18 change was that public projects hosted on the platform were suddenly unavailable without notice. Users complain that this service is interrupted or even ruin their business dealings. For the code to be made public again, developers need to submit an application and confirm that it doesn’t contain anything that violates Chinese law or violates copyright.

Li has manually reviewed all of her projects on Gitee and so far 22 of the 24 projects have been restored. “However, I do not think the review process is a one-time event, so the question is whether the conflict of hosting projects will increase in the future,” he said. However, with no better domestic alternative, Li hopes users will stay: “People may not like what Gitee is doing, but [Gitee] will still be required to complete their daily work. “

In the long run, this creates an undue burden on developers. “When you write code, you are also commenting and naming variables. What developer, while writing code, wants to think if their code can trigger a list of sensitive words? “Yao said.

As with most other aspects of the Internet, how China built its own alternative worked fine In recent years. But with open-source software, a direct product of cross-border cooperation, China seems to have hit the mark.

“This push to insulate the domestic open source community from the risks posed by the global community is very counter-intuitive,” said Rebecca Arcesati, an analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies. core output of open source technology development. co-author of a report China’s bet on open source.

Technologists in China do not want to be cut out of the global software development conversation, she said, and may feel uncomfortable with the direction China is taking: “The more Beijing tries to nationalize the source code open source and create a native ecosystem, the fewer eager developers will be to participate in what they perceive to be government-led open source projects. ”

And severing global ties early could disrupt the rapid growth of China’s open source software industry before its benefits to the economy can be realized. . It’s part of a broader concern that has eclipsed China’s tech sector as the government has stepped up regulations in recent years: whether China is sacrificing the long-term benefits of technology for the sake of China. short-term impact?

“I am trying to see what China can do without those global links with international open source communities and platforms,” said Arcesati. “We’re not there yet.”

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