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China censors coverage of Egypt protests on the web

A search for 'Egypt' on the Twitter-like service Sina brings up a message saying, 'According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search results are not shown.'

By Dean TakahashiVenture Beat / January 31, 2011

An Egyptian man uses his mobile phone to take a picture of the Arcadia shopping center, that was looted, damaged and set on fire by people in Cairo, Egypt, on Jan. 30.

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

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China appears to be trying to limit public knowledge of the unrest in Egypt. Over the weekend, Chinese Twitter-like services run by Sina, Tencent and Sohu blocked the word “Egypt” from being used in microblogging messages passed around by users.

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A search for “Egypt” on Sina brings up a message saying, “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search results are not shown.”

The country’s censors also deleted comments from the limited online news coverage of the protests in Egypt in an effort to block independent commentary on the events, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sina, Tecent and Sohu have hundreds of millions of users, and clearly, the Chinese government doesn’t want those services to become forums for discussing popular revolts. It’s been more than 20 years since China had its own brush with rebellion in the Tiananmen Square protests, but images out of Egypt showing protesters standing up to water cannon trucks just as a solitary Chinese man stood up to a column of tanks just off of Tiananmen Square has got to bring back the memories. And those memories will produce a lot of fear among Chinese authorities. If microblogging had been around in those days, as well as text messages, maybe things might have turned out differently for the protesters in China.

The Egyptian government has been trying to stop protests from being organized by shutting down the internet. So far, it hasn’t worked. China, with its infrastructure of censorship already in place, has a much easier job of filtering what gets through to its citizens.

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