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Access to the Internet: A comparison of the policies of the USA and China toward Internet access

This report examines the differing policies toward access to the internet in the USA and China. In an age where greater and greater levels of communication are becoming the norm, there are still certain regimes who regard the internet as a potentially threatening resource for those who would seek to challenge current institutions or who would wish to organise against the government. This report examines the two different nations and how their internet access is governed. To a large extent it is concluded that the manner in which internet access is controlled in the respective nations is relative to the two very different political systems that operate within them. As a result the Chinese system is heavily regulated and centrally controlled, whereas the USA system is much less regulated and responds more to the judiciary and to legal grounds for censorship rather than the preservation of the state.

The internet has changed the way people live in quite dramatic ways. It has opened up new channels for political dissent and has offered the opportunity for communication on a scale that was previously never thought possible. There are many cases worldwide where the internet has been used to unite people and to aid their struggles. The concept of new social movements and the ability of movements such as the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico to survive and prosper are due in large part to their ability to reach a wide audience as a result of the internet. Without this access to the internet it would most likely have been the case that the Zapatista movement would have wiped out by the Mexican army. However, as a result of their ability to garner support from across the globe they were able to shine a light on events in Chiapas and gain international support for what they were doing. As a result of this they undermined the Mexican state and won their battle (at least for now). Control over this medium is therefore a key issue which can have very significant outcomes on politics.

The differences between the internet regulation in the two countries can largely be said to be a reflection of the differing political systems that are present in the two countries. In the USA the control over the internet is relatively liberal as a result of the philosophies which form the backbone of the 'free' nation. Whereas in China there is a strong authoritarian government which rules in a very autocratic fashion and therefore takes as much control over the internet as it possibly can.

In conclusion, internet access in China is heavily controlled, subject to no clear laws and is regulated in a particularly arbitrary fashion. Internet access in the USA on the other hand is freely available, being censored only in the case of a particular legal case, protection of children, or where a particular institution or organisation deems it necessary.

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