Filtering and blocking of content have been a common trait by the Chinese’ government authorities in the effort of keeping insightful information and the content considered harmful from being accessed by the public. However, there have been a number of cases reported by the authorities of some content getting accessed before they are blocked over the internet. The proposed research is aimed at providing solutions to enhance effective filtering and blocking of all forbidden content by Government of China (Jamali and Hamid, 2017, pp.408-425). The research will cover key areas outlining the targeted forbidden content that should be removed from the internet, reasons for restricting the access to these contents, and the possible gaps that should be addressed to ensure this is fully achieved. In this research paper, the methods for data collection and analyses to be used in the proposed research will be outlined and all the anticipated requirements by the research identified to ensure that at the time of actual research everything is in order. This will enable the researchers to efficiently stick to the anticipated objectives and research questions as their guideline to the research.
Research background and significance
Back in the year 1994, China got connected to the World Wide Web. However, since then the government has been working out all the means to have some websites blocked from being accessible by the Chinese. This is after the government realized that the internet gave the people the power to access any information without any restrictions. With the internet in place, information could be spread at a fast rate across all the parts of the country, to and from the country to the outside world (Drake et al., 2017, pp.543-576). At first, when the internet got to China, the Government thought it was a good thing for its people before it discovered that the people could share ideas freely with the new medium of fast communication that could easily precipitate social and political conflicts and divisions.
The Chinese government has a wide range of policies that restrict the public from exposure to a certain set of content. However, studies conducted previously indicate that the government has put in efforts to continually filter the internet while blocking some of the websites for a number of reasons, although, not outlined by the Chinese Government itself (Su, 2017, pp.107-124). First, the government through its authorities wanted to have total social control of the people. The people were using the internet as the best platform to express their freedom of speech, creating a wide and fast flow of information as the Chinese Government doesn’t like to buy the idea of being unable to have a grip of control over the dissemination of messages which possibly could lead protests and chaos that can obliterate the Government.
In addition, studies have shown that the internet has a bulk amount of information that directly reveals the dark history of the People’s Republic of China (Xu et al., 2017). This is reported to be one of the reasons for filtering and blocking of political related articles and pieces of news concerning China as a nation. The Government has put in a lot of resources to ensure that its people and the world have no access to such information in order to maintain their high profile reputation and the political stability it has established. The other sensitive content includes pornography and the Chinese Government criticisms that have been concealed for a very long time. It is said that the fear of criticism is the same reason the blogging sites have been blocked as such platforms the bloggers could post anything which could be contrary to the leadership regime in place.
The western publication presses such as the Daily Motion, Google News, The New York Times, among many others have been blocked for the same reasons of criticizing crucial articles that are most likely to be published by these Western Media publishers. For instance, the New Yoke Times once published an article “Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader” without the consent of the Chinese authorities (Li, 2017, p.139). This raised the attention of the world towards the country’s privacy which was fought back in a radical way by the Government. To prevent such attention from emerging in future, the authorities blocked of the media from China.
Another potential reason for filtering and blocking is for its own economical protection and stability. Studies have shown that the Chinese Governments prefer their own local companies that adhere to their rules and regulations thus have set restrictions to block off the foreign companies from reaching out to its people thus promoting the local companies in the country (Guo et al., 2017, pp.676-696). An example of foreign companies blocked includes Google, Wikipedia, and Youtube while replacing the companies with Baidu, Hoodong, and Youku respectively.
This has made the Chinese people use their own products thus promoting the economic growth of the country. Furthermore, it is reported that in 2010, Google had a dispute with China over the freedom to information/ internet censorship within the Republic as the Government of China demanded Google to filter all the search results so as only to give specified information within a given range, an idea which the company objected to which was later blocked and is totally inaccessible by the Chinese people (Grogan and Christopher, 2017, pp.1-15).
On the other hand, research has also indicated that the Chinese authorities wanted to protect the privacy of the Chinese people which lead to blocking of some media platforms. For instance, Facebook, the Chinese authorities argued that such platform collects people’s private and confidential details in addition to having a lot of fake news from the posted items and articles that could easily mislead the public (Zittrain et al., 2017). Also, it is said the same platforms could be used to sale unprescribed harmful drugs that when misused could lead to hygienic crises across the country, thus, the authorities opted to block the media from the people.
Despite the efforts to block certain websites, the Virtual Private Network (VPN), has been reported to be a long-standing rival of the Great Firewall of China. The Great Firewall of China is a mechanism put in place to block access to foreign websites and slow down the internet traffic in the role of internet censorship. However, the VPN provides access to the blocked websites within China by evading the internet censorship. There has been a struggle to block the VPN providers through OpenVPN and PureVPN by the Chinese authorities but the censorship battle is reported to be ongoing due to numerous VPN providers in the web that are still accessible and well-functioning within China (Aaronson, Susan, and Leblond, 2018).
Lastly, in 2014, a group of youth mostly the students lead protests in Hong Kong for pro-democracy over the restrictions to access to information. The photos of the protesting students went viral within seconds over Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. The Government felt threatened by the way the photos could be a new source of inspiration to the people to start protesting against it, thus blocked off Instagram that was majorly being used to share these images.
Critical appraisal of the proposed research
Carrying out research about the aggressive filtering and blocking of content in China in a question with a wide range of divergent opinion among different people. In my opinion, at an individual level, l think it is not a good idea to deprive the people the freedom to information (Wan and Chen, 2017, pp.22-42). However, in a broad view, l think there is more to it that could be or is already beneficial to the people of China than it appears in general. For the Government to impose such a strict measure to it there could be more intensive reasons that could have been classified by the Government as to why they imposed the restrictions without providing any means to appeal to the made decision or any form of reasons or clarification to the public at large.
Taking a deep look at the proposal, the critics that should arise should include the questions that evolve around the welfare of the Chinese citizens which include; what are the benefits of filtering and blocking of content to the people? What are the effects? The advantages and disadvantages and then what does the Government benefit from this act? The answers to such questions could help in determining both the positive and the negative aspects of the internet censorship program. Concealing of the reasons by the authorities has raised many questions more than it has helped to provide answers to already existing ones that need to be answered (Shireeva et al., 2017, pp.139-147).
To come up with this proposal, l had to take a brief study about China, its people, the leadership structures, the economic and political stabilities which are highly attributed to the filtering and blocking of some internet content. Broadly, comparing China to most of the countries that have full access to the freedom of information especially from the internet, studies have indicated that China leads by a wide margin in terms of economic growth, political, and social stabilities (Wang and Bing, 2017, pp.852-881). In light to this, China is thriving all over across the world with more intrudes into foreign markets and conducting business with almost all the countries despite the strict internet censorship rules and regulations back in its homeland. This is one of the reasons l entirely support the proposal.
Over the same, the latest trends reveal that China is one of the countries with minimum cases of cybersecurity and rampant attacks. The studies have attributed this to the internet censor as being the preseason for reduced chances of attacks from the internet. There are many viruses example Trojan among many others that could be acquired in the use of the internet without any restriction. By China having a Great Firewall for the entire country, the Government has made sure such viruses are filtered out and the cases of having the Chinese citizens exposed to such risks are entirely minimized (Shepherd, 2017, p.55). There are also mature gaming websites that have no control over who to play them with a simple indication of over 18 years of age whereby children can easily access it without the required restrictions in place. By blocking such websites prevents small children from the risk of such games in addition to access to pornographic materials.
Moreover, it has been said that the freedom to the use of the internet does not actually help people to acquire information as they claim. Rather, especially the youth, have become addicted to the virtual internet world as they spend a lot of time on the internet only for fun. With the fast speeds of the internet being improved every day, the ideology conceptualizing the virtual internet world as the real world is increasingly spreading at a high rate among the free internet users. This has, however, diverged the core useful reasons for utilization of the internet as a research tool and educative platform but instead, it is leading to laziness and an anti-social life. (Kou, Yubo, and Bryan, 2017) has reported that people using phones with freedom of access to any websites are developing a new trend that makes people act like robots and not to value the humanity virtues due to rampant use of social media.
With implementing the internet censorship, the Chinese Government has ended up benefiting from the personal technical skills as the people have naturally adapted to the idea of accessing important information only. This has led to the utilization of personnel acquired knowledge into innovations and inventions among the Chinese people. As studies indicate, China is one of the countries with highly skilled personnel that are currently performing very well in different fields, projects, and in terms of technology. This is evident in the degree of work professionalism from the projects that China has been involved in or undertaken across the world and in their own homeland (Piao et al., 2017, pp.223-248). The presence of mega infrastructures in China is an indication of a hard working nation with an economy that is sustainable to billions of its citizens without any aid or relief from the other countries. This is also linked to internet censorship that has enabled the Chines to adapt to this culture and tradition of working hard.
Another point is looking at the peace and unity among the Chinese people. Comparing the peace and unity of The People’s Republic of China with a number of countries which claim to enjoy the freedom to internet usage, China is way far much a peaceful nation than most of these countries. Ever since its independence, China has not had war crisis among its citizens all through without the existence of social divisions and political boundaries among its people. In 1994 when the World Wide Web was available to China, the Government got concerned that this could be the platform to start the divisions among its people thus started the agencies that could enable the filtering and blocking of some websites. By doing so, the Government has maintained the sovereignty of its people with a united spirit that has facilitated its development and international peacemaking it trade with almost all the countries in the world. Scholars have linked up this unity and togetherness of Chinese people to the internet censorship through filtering of insightful information (Wang and Dakuo, 2015, p.31).
Having all these in mind, despite the internet coming along with many advantages and conveniences, the need for internet censorship to filter and block some content on the World Wide Web out ways the freedom to information for the internet users. Actually, censorship has led to total utilization of the internet which can be concurred by a number of scholars who have undertaken research on the hazards brought by the free usage of the internet. Therefore, the research proposal of internet filtering and blocking of some content should be supported by the majority of people for the betterment of the welfare of the people in their social, political, and economic aspects.
The research aims: objectives and question
The proposed research aims to explain what internet filtering and blocking is, the motivations for implementing the censorship program to the people of China. The research will answer the questions like what technical options are available that might be brought in instead of the practice of filtering and blocking. The research is dedicated to providing a comprehensive analysis of the internet blocking, review the current regulations and standards relating to the internet blocking of content and its impact on the fight against cybercrime and the support to democracy and safety to individuals.
Moreover, the aims and objectives of the research proposal are to evaluate the challenges faced in filtering and blocking of the content on the internet. There has been a number of challenges that have been reported by Government in the practice of blocking the content. Also, the local companies in China have experienced similar challenges on a different scale of filtering and blocking of the content. This research proposal is aimed at addressing such challenges. Another important research question for the proposal is how effective is the filtering and blocking of the content and the blocking strategies framework laid in place (Deibert, 2015, pp.64-78). The proposed research is also aimed to address the implications for a democratic society brought about by the censorship program and the wide range of advantages that come along as well.
With this research, we seek to produce documentation with an analysis of a large number of blockage web pages with a variety of the filtering techniques. The research will focus mainly on the blocked websites which are termed to be controversial and attempt to bring the light to the people the reasons as to why these websites are blocked. The research is also intended to answer the questions on evading internet blocking by those who forego this exercise through the proxy servers, tunneling, hosting, and evading the DNS based filters. The research is also designated to give findings over the possible cases of over-blocking and under-blocking of content. there has been a reported possibility that the blocking authorities have to an extend over-blocked some content that has totally no implications on the hidden reasons of filtering nor blocking while some are reported to be useful academic content that is required by research institutes for academic purposes (Jiang, 2015). This research is set to address such issues.
Philosophy of the proposed research
There are a number of philosophies which are the basis for dealing with the source, nature, and developing the knowledge in research. These include pragmatism, positivism, realism, and interpretivism also known as anti-positivism. In the internet filtering and blocking content research, positivism philosophy would be preferred to other methods as it is highly structured with a large and wide range of data samples. The method also applies to the quantitative and qualitative analyses of data making it most suitable for this research proposal. This will enable a reflection on the important assumptions that would be made during research which would form the basis for research strategy (Bernard, 2017). The identification of the suitable philosophy for the research was based on the following diagram, also known as the research onion.Setting the Research Strategy
The research strategy will enable the researcher to answer the questions of the research which shapes the structure and flow of the research. Therefore, in choosing the research strategy, the aims and objectives of the research are the aspects that provide a guideline for setting the required strategy (Ormston et al., 2014, pp.1-26). Emphasis on considering the existing knowledge, the availability of resources for conducting the research in terms of time and material resources as well as the philosophical underpinnings are very important. In selecting the suitable strategy for this research, inductive and deductive strategies would be preferred which will facilitate a detailed and intensive research on the internet filtering and content blocking in China.
A graphical representation of the selected strategy is shown in the diagram.According to (Lu, Yang, and Savvas, 2018), the purpose of research design is to ensure that the evidence and findings obtained enable the researcher to address the research questions and problems in an as unambiguous way. In the proposed research, the research design is targeted to achieve the following; clearly and effectively describe the data that will be used and how this data will be collected, define intensively the nature of the research questions, provide a review to the previous literature related to the research proposal, and describe the methods of data analysis that will be used and explicitly specify the hypothesis centered to the research questions. The methods of data collection, analysis, presentation, and interpretation of the research proposal are outlined below.
Methods of data collection
Data collection is the process of obtaining all the relevant information from the available sources in order to find answers to the research question, the hypothesis, and evaluate the findings from the data. There are two methods of data collection to be deployed in the research proposal. These are the primary and secondary data collection methods.
Secondary Data Collection Methods
The secondary data is the type of data relevant to the research to be undertaken that have already been published in existing journals, books, magazines, among many other sources. The criteria for selecting the suitable secondary data to be used in the research play a major role in determining the level of validity of the research and the reliability of the research outcomes. The criteria to be used selection of the secondary data in the research will include, and not limited to the date in which the information was published, the credential of the author to the published information, the depth of the analyses of the information, the reliability of the source of information, the quality of the content discussions existing in information, and finally the extent to which the information will contribute to the development of research on internet filtering and content blocking in China.
Primary Data Collection Methods
Primary data is the information collected during the actual research. In my research l intent to make use of two types of the primary data collection methods. These are the qualitative and quantitative data collection methods.
Quantitative Data Collection Methods
Quantitative methods of data collection and analyses are those that involve mathematical calculations of varied nature. Some of the quantitative methods to be used in the research proposal will include, and not limited to questionnaires with closed-ended questions, correlation, and regression methods, and standard deviation which will involve the mean, mode, and median of the frequency and tendency filtering and blocking of content in the research. Application of the quantitative methods will be advantageous to the researchers as they are cheaper to apply and can be applied within a short given of time (Flynn, Rachel, and Lauren, 2018, pp.16-22). They will also enable the team of researchers to draw comparisons in research based on the data collected due to high levels of standardization in the quantitative methods.
Qualitative Data Collection Methods
Qualitative Data collection method utilizes the use of non-numerical data. This is associated with the use of words, feelings, emotions, among other non-quantifiable means that enable data collection. In the research, a little of qualitative data collection methods will be employed in engaging a number of the participants especially the high profile organizations intended to be part of the participants in the research (Taylor et al., 2015). The choice of the qualitative methods will range from interviews with selected participants, questionnaires with open-ended questions, focus groups including the internet users under restrictions and those without any form of restrictions, and finally the case studies.
Sampling is a principle that can be used to identify and select the members of a group or a population to be used in research. (Beal, 2015, pp.383-407) summarizes the advantages of sampling as; sampling makes the research manageable, it saves on the costs significantly, results in a more accurate finding, it accelerates the speed of primary data collection, and also provides an opportunity to analyze and process information efficiently. With the application of sampling in the research, we would be able to utilize the mentioned pros with regard to the huge population of internet users in China. Sampling will enable simplification of the research.Sampling process in primary data collection
This involves the following stages;
Defining target population- This will help in identification of the best-positioned group to serve in primary data collection. Such groups in the research will include college and university students among others
Choosing a sampling frame-This involves choosing a list of people within the sampled target population that would contribute to the research.
Determining the sampling size- this is the number of individuals obtained from the sampling frame that will participate in primary data collection methods. A number of observations should be observed when determining the sample size; increasing the sample size minimizes the magnitude of sampling errors, the subject availability and the costs are important factors to look at during determination of the sample size.
Finally, selecting the sampling method and applying the chosen method in practice. The types of sampling used in primary data collection are briefly explained below.
Types of sampling in primary data collection
They divided into two, probability sampling and non-probability sampling. In probability sampling, there are known chances of participation by the members. These methods include stratified systematic, multistage, simple, and cluster sampling. In non-probability sampling, the members are selected randomly thus not every member has a chance to participate. These include purposive, convenience, snowball, and quota sampling. In the research, the probability sampling methods would be preferred so that every member selected in the sample has a chance to participate (Nardi, 2018). The pictorial view is presented below.Data analysis, presentation, and interpretation methods
Data analysis and presentation are critical stages in the research as they are almost the final stages of the research. A great analysis and interpretation can be a deal breaker of the research. In presenting the work especially to higher authorities or high profile clients, no one would want to spend hours trying to understand complex matters but rather the presentation should be as simple as possible. After sorting and processing data after analysis it should be presented in a simple manner which helps to interpret the data easily by the people whom the findings are being presented to (Rollinson, 2014). Representation of data is mainly through by use of charts, maps, and other methods as discussed below.
Bar charts/bar graphs
These are very effective in showing a pictorial representation, especially where there is a difference in the trends of data collected. An example is shown below.Line charts
This would be used effectively in showing changes in the population of different sets of trends in analyzed data. An example is shown;Pie charts
These are considered best in presenting divides of a given component from a total of 100% or 360 degrees Celsius. An example is shown below.Combo charts
This is a combination of more than one chart to represent the analyzed data. An example is depicted below.With a combination of these methods, the researchers would be able to critically analyze the data appropriately to give a simple representation to the audience.
Ethical issues and constraints to be observed during the research
(Johnson, 2014, pp.21-40) claims that ethics are applied in research with an aim of creating and maintaining a trustworthy relationship between the researcher and those being researched.in developing the relationship, a number of ethical principles must be observed as discussed below.
Beneficence-research should be only conducted if there would be some good that comes out of it like, improvement to knowledge, solving a social problem, or making some profit out of the research. The research should highly consider this before the research.
Autonomy-this is concerned with the informed consent of the participants. The researcher should ensure the information being disclosed by the participants agree to and understand what they can either refuse or accept to disclose.
Non-maleficence-this principle obligates the researchers to ensure no one is exposed to any risks or harm. Harm can be in many forms such as frustrations, boredom, time wasting, loss of funds, or blows to self-esteem among many other.
Justice and fairness-this principle acknowledge that everyone involved in research should be treated equally and fairly.
Privacy and confidentiality-this concerns the respect for the limited access to people and the respect to agreements between the participants and the researcher on what cannot be done on the information collected.
Research time-lines, facilities, and budget
Lastly, it is important to set the timelines of the research, assemble the facilities to be put in place and the required budget. During budgeting, there should be a provision for a surplus budget to cater for emergencies that might arise or some unplanned necessary spending. A proper schedule with a list of entries to be completed every day of the research should be made and strictly followed to ensure the research sticks in the planned framework (West, 2012). Research demands high standards of self-discipline and control in order to meet the aims and objectives of the proposed research.
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