Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) claims that U.S. hotel chains in China are being pressed to install filtering software to control what material guests access on-line. Having the Olympic Games in China this summer helpfully focuses attention on the country’s Internet censorship regime – arguably the most sophisticated in the world. That said, I’m a bit dubious about this charge. China doesn’t need help with surveillance and blocking; the state’s system takes care of that largely at the network backbone. The only issue I can see is that if these hotels have an unfiltered pipe to the broader ‘Net, China might want that connection to be more closely controlled. Would China go to the trouble for that, given the possible media backlash if this came out? I’m not so sure.
If you’re interested in these issues, I recommend highly the new book Access Denied, by my former colleagues Ron Deibert, John Palfrey, Rafal Rohozinski, and Jonathan Zittrain at the OpenNet Initiative. It’s a great, and timely, read.