How censoring China’s open-source coders might backfire
At the moment, there are few clues as to what brought about the change, but censorship of certain types of language (obscenity, pornography, and politically sensitive words) has been dragging on the platform for a while. On Gitee’s official and public comment page, there are several user complaints about how projects were censored for unclear reasons, possibly because technical language was confused with a sensitive word.
The immediate result of the change in Gitee on May 18 was that public projects hosted on the platform were suddenly unavailable without notice. Users complained that this disrupted services or even ruined their business offerings. In order for the code to be made public again, developers must submit a request and confirm that it does not contain anything that violates Chinese law or infringes copyright.
He went through the manual review of all his projects at Gitee, and so far 22 of 24 have been restored. ” friction of hosting projects will increase in the future, ”he says. However, without a better home alternative, he expects users to stay: “People may not like what Gitee does, but [Gitee] they will still have to do their daily work. “
In the long run, this is an unreasonable burden for developers. “When you’re coding, you’re also typing comments and setting names for variables. Which developer, while writing code, would like to think about whether their code could activate the sensitive word list?” says Yao.
With almost every other aspect of the Internet, the Chinese way of building its own alternative has worked well in recent years. But with open source software, a direct product of cross-border collaboration, China seems to have run into a wall.
“This drive to isolate the open source national community from the risks posed by the global community is something that goes against the basic proposition of open source technology development,” says Rebecca Arcesati, an analyst at the Mercator Institute. ‘China Studies and co-author of a report on China’s commitment to open source.
China’s technologists, he says, do not want to be left out of the conversation about global software development and may be uncomfortable with China’s direction: “The more Beijing tries to nationalize open source and create a native ecosystem, less Anxious developers will get involved in what they consider to be government-run open source projects. ”
And prematurely cutting its global ties may 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 overshadows China’s technology sector, as the government has tightened regulations in recent years: Is China sacrificing the long-term benefits of technology for a short-term impact?
“It’s hard for me to see how China can do without these global links with international communities and open source foundations,” says Arcesati. “We’re not there yet.”