Is Chinese style tech censorship coming to Reddit?
Tencent is the first Asian tech company to surpass the $500 billion market value.
What appears like business as usual, this move by Tencent may have strong free speech implications. China is notorious for its sophisticated censorship regime, the Great Firewall of China. Ironically, Reddit is blocked under the Great Firewall of China. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Tencent is no casual participant on China’s internet. It’s actually one of the chief actors behind China’s internet censorship campaign. The Great Firewall was not exclusively a creation of the Chinese State. It takes two to tango in order to make China’s censorship program function.
Adrian Shabaz, the Research Director for Technology and Democracy at Freedom House clears up some misconceptions about the Great Firewall:
We tend to think of Great Firewall as this huge thing the state has built. In reality, it’s the companies in charge of weeding out unfavorable information online. There’s a whole host of regulations, one new law passed on average every two days, about what content can and cannot appear online. Then it falls to Chinese companies to comply with this widespread censorship regime set by the communist party itself.
Reddit is a platform that claims to be a champion of free speech. Unfortunately, Reddit has taken numerous actions in the past that have put its mission into question. In 2016, Breitbart showcased several instances that Reddit censored Conservative content.
Tencent’s recent move to buy a significant stake in Reddit should raise even more concerns among those on the Right side of the political spectrum. A potential partnership with a company that is connected to one of the most robust censorship apparatuses in the world would only strengthen Reddit’s censorship campaigns.
This certainly does not bode well for free speech on social media, which is already being curtailed by Big Tech giants. Adding Chinese style censorship into the mix could prove disastrous for Internet freedoms.
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