Great Firewall Growls: China Blocks iTunes Access

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China’s heavy censorship stance has once again come to light as the government blocked access to the iTunes Store, allegedly over pro-Tibetan content. The album in question is Songs for Tibet, a compilation that features tracks from artists such as Moby, Alanis Morissette, and Sting. Produced by the Art of Peace Foundation, the album appeared on the iTunes Store on August 5th, and a few recent complaints from users in China suggest that access has been severed. Subsequent traceroutes pointed to a government-imposed block.

The Campaign for Tibet, another pro-Tibetan organization, recently boasted that numerous Olympic athletes, including those from China, had downloaded the album. This may have helped to prompt the ban, which is part of the Chinese government’s approach to heavy censorship. Pro-government publication china.org.cn reported that some consumers have even vowed to boycott all Apple products, including the popular iPhone, which is not available in China since negotiations with China Mobile and China Unicom broke down.

This incident highlights the prickly terrain that most American companies grapple with when doing business in China. On the one hand, the country’s massive population and growing economy make it irresistibly alluring, but the rules of the game are entirely different. Ultimately, companies like Apple, Google, and others are forced to modify their content and approaches or risk exclusion.

This blocking is not the first time that China has censored content, and it is unlikely to be the last. The government has an extensive list of banned words and phrases, and a vast network of censors monitors both online and offline activities. The Great Firewall of China, as it is commonly known, is a sophisticated system that allows the government to keep a close eye on what its citizens are doing and saying online.

The Chinese government’s approach to censorship has far-reaching implications, not just for tech companies but for everyone who relies on the internet for information and communication. It is a reminder that even in today’s world, where information flows freely across borders, there are still powerful forces at work that seek to control what people see and hear.

For companies like Apple and Google, doing business in China means walking a tightrope between profit-seeking and censorship. The balance between the two is delicate, and missteps can be costly. Google, for example, famously pulled out of China in 2010 after a dispute over censorship. Apple, on the other hand, has continued to do business in the country, albeit with some modifications to its products and services.

The incident has also highlighted the power of music as a tool for political activism. Songs for Tibet was produced to raise awareness about the plight of Tibet and to promote peace and understanding. By blocking access to the album, the Chinese government has inadvertently drawn attention to the cause and given it a higher profile than it might have had otherwise.

In conclusion, the blocking of Songs for Tibet on the Chinese iTunes Store is just the latest example of the country’s heavy-handed approach to censorship. It is a reminder that doing business in China is not without its risks and challenges, and that companies must be prepared to navigate a complex and ever-changing landscape if they want to succeed. At the same time, it is also a reminder of the power of music as a tool for political activism and the importance of standing up for what is right, even in the face of adversity.