How censorship of Chinese open source encoders could have the opposite effect

How censorship of Chinese open source encoders could have the opposite effect

The imprank

For now, there is little idea of ​​what prompted the change, but censorship of certain types of language – vulgarity, pornography and politically sensitive words – has been creeping onto the platform for some time. About Gitee’s official and public feedback pagethere are multiple users appeals about how projects are censored for unclear reasons, probably because technical language has been mistaken for a sensitive word.

The immediate result of Gitee’s change on May 18 was that public projects on the platform suddenly became unavailable without prior notice. Users have complained that this is it disrupted services or even ruined their business affairs. In order for the code to be released again, developers must submit the application and confirm that it does not contain anything that violates Chinese law or copyright.

Lee has gone through a manual review for all of his projects on Gitee, and so far 22 of the 24 have been updated. “However, I assume that the audit process is not a one-time thing, so the question is whether the friction around hosting projects will increase in the future,” he says. Still, without a better domestic alternative, Lee expects customers to stay: “People may not like what Gitee is doing, but [Gitee] they will still have to do their daily work. “

In the long run, this is an unreasonable burden for developers. “When you code, you also write comments and set names for variables. Which programmer, while writing code, wants to think about whether their code could trigger a list of sensitive words? ” says Yao.

With almost every other aspect of the Internet, the Chinese way of building their own alternative it worked well in recent years. But with open source software, a direct product of cross-border cooperation, China seems to have run into a wall.

“This effort to isolate the domestic open source community from the risks posed by the global community is something that is largely contrary to the basic proposal to develop open source technology,” said Rebecca Arcesati, an analyst at the Mercator Institute for Chinese Studies and co-author. report about the Chinese open-source bet.

Technologists in China, she says, do not want to be cut off from global software development talks and may feel embarrassed about China’s direction: “The more Beijing tries to nationalize open-source and create an indigenous ecosystem, the less eager developers will participate. in what they see as government-led open source projects. ”

And the premature severance of its global ties could halt the rapid growth of China’s open source software industry before its economic benefits can be realized. This is part of a wider concern overshadowing China’s technology sector as the government tightens regulations in recent years: is China sacrificing the long-term benefits of technology for short-term impact?

“I’m trying to see how China can survive without these global ties to the international community and open source foundations,” Arcesati said. “We’re not there yet.”

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