Beijing is putting a bid in for the 2022 Winter Olympics, but this has caused some concern from foreign media. During the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing had promised foreign journalists complete internet access, but when those journalists arrived on scene many different sites were blocked.
Sites like Facebook and Twitter are not permitted in China, and the country keeps a tight lock on sites that the Chinese Government deems dangerous.
The issue here is that foreign journalists wishing to report news from China to the world cannot do so easily without access to social media sites (and other sites) that are blocked. This time around, China promises not to restrict access to any Internet site, but that’s the same promise that was made back in 2008, and that promise wasn’t upheld.
The Issue With Social Media
A spokesperson for the Chinese Government recently told press that people in China don’t like to use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. Further, this spokesperson went on to say that China has its own social media sites (Weibo and Wechat) that citizens of China prefer to use. This, the representative stated, was the reason why Facebook and Twitter and other sites are blocked in China. The Western world is skeptical, however.
It has long been known that China heavily censors the Internet, and doesn’t allow people living in the country to visit many sites. But in order for journalists to cover an event as big as the 2022 Winter Olympics, access to any site on the Internet has to be available. There’s no news yet as to whether or not China will get the bid, but many have serious doubts that the country will be considered due to past Internet restrictions - despite promises to provide an open Internet to all.
A Solid Promise?
Even though Facebook and Twitter are still blocked in China, Beijing has set up both Facebook and Twitter pages in order to help promote Beijing as an Olympic site. This could be a show of good faith, but most are still weary. If Beijing is going to have open Internet access during the Olympics, it doesn’t make much sense to keep the sites blocked for now while also allowing a government Facebook and Twitter site to be set up (one that people living in China cannot currently view).
Right now, Beijing’s Facebook and Twitter accounts are not attracting much attention at all. The two accounts have only received a few hundred hits right now, and that number might not climb in the next few years due to the criticism that China is receiving over Internet censorship.
There are other cities bidding for the same Olympics, of course, and many of those do offer open and free access to the Internet. It’s unlikely that the Olympic committee will choose Beijing, but the bid has certainly brought forward the problem with China’s Internet censorship once again - a very important detail. China continues to block many social media sites, and some are seeing the new Facebook and Twitter accounts as little more than a farce.