China & Hollywood’s new surveillance & censorship tool

Hollywood has got together with Communist Government of China to develop a copyright surveillance and censorship tool to seek out and block any online content which they deem to be infringing on their copyright.

The 12426 Copyright Monitoring Center

According to a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which VPNCompare.co.uk is a proud supporter of, the Copyright Society of China has recently launched the new tool which is called the 12426 Copyright Monitoring Center.

The tool claims [in Chinese] that it is able to monitor video, audio, and picture content across a wide range of different online platforms including video host sites, graphic portals, community platforms, P2P and cloud sites, Smart TVs, set-top boxes, and aggregation apps, amongst many others.

If they come across any content which matches copyrighted content which has been submitted to them by the copyright holder, they can automatically issue takedown notices and set up mediation between the two parties.

But the new tool is also able to provide a filtering technology which is able to block the uploading and downloading of the content, should it not prove possible to negotiate the removal of the content.

The EFF has described this new technology as a “frightening panopticon” and “a human rights crisis” for China’s internet users. But it will come as no surprise to Chinese netizens who have become accustomed to their Government poring over everything they do online, and the serious repercussions they will face if they step out of line.

It is not for no reason that China is judged to be the worst place on earth for online freedom or that it is a place where VPN use online is an absolute necessity if you want to access even everyday online sites such as Facebook and Google.

A global online rights threat

But the new technology also poses a threat to internet users in the rest of the world as well.

This is because, as the EFF has highlighted, the Copyright Society of China has close ties with US Hollywood studios, who have themselves long been advocating for similar powers to enforce their own copyright online.

The Copyright Society of China used to be a private association, but today is headed by a member of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China and only states that one of its remits is to provide technical support for the Communist regime in China to enforce their oppressive internet policies.

As a private enterprise, however, they forged close ties with Hollywood studios including 21st Century Fox and Warner Bros. Lobbyists from Hollywood Studios have long pushed for such powers to be made available in the wider world as well and they will note that if this technology is effective in China, it offers them an opportunity.

Indeed, there are already signs that the western world may be willing to go down the same path of surveillance and censorship that the Chinese Communist Party has so happily laid down. The EFF has previously reported on proposals in Europe for upload filtering to be allowed should a copyright holder claim rights to a piece of online content.

This would essential grant the same powers that are now available in China and has the potential to set a worrying precedent. In an EU which is usually fairly strong on matters of online privacy and freedom, it is a surprising development.

It should not be forgotten though that such tools, although initially introduced for something as defensible as copyright law enforcement are frequently used further down the line for wider censorship and surveillance purposes motivated by political need.

Such activity is to be expected (but of course not condoned) in a regime like China, but has no place in a modern Europe.

And it is vital that whilst Hollywood Studios are allowed to enforce their copyright over their content, they are not permitted to do at the expense, or risk, of the rights of internet users to go about their business online without fear of intrusive online surveillance or censorship.

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