July 1 will probably enter the history of the World Wide Web as the day when China went offline.
This is an initiative of Beijing activist Ai Wewei as an online protest against Green Dam – a mandatory software imposed on all newly manufactured PCs by the Chinese Government, starting July 1 2009. The software should block pornographic content, but many Chinese users are afraid that the Government is using it as a gateway to crack down on groups or Web sites deemed threatening or inappropriate.
The Daily News, quoting Reuters, reports that Green Dam appears to be part a wider agenda by China’s Communist Party to repress “dissent in a year of sensitive anniversaries, such as the June 4 anniversary of the government’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square 20 years ago.”
Ai Weiwei used Twitter (what else?) to call to action:
“Stop any online activities, including working, reading, chatting, blogging, gaming and mailing,” Ai posted in Chinese. “Don’t explain your behavior.”
Soon, other Chinese users followed, urging each other to remain offline on July 1: a silent protest against online censorship by the government.
From Twitter to main stream media coverage there was only one step: hundreds of online publications cover Weiwei’s initiative right now. Green Dam was already controversial, but the question is: will Weiwei’s initiative catch?
Will China really go offline for a day? Can one man truly influence the decision of millions of users? How or should we support this initiative?