News / Asia

    US Religious Groups Concerned About Internet Censorship

    US Religious Groups Concerned About Internet Censorshipi
    X
    Jerome Socolovsky
    June 25, 2014 1:16 AM
    Years ago, Falun Gong practitioners began developing technology to circumvent Beijing's Internet restrictions, and now a coalition of faith-based organizations are pushing U.S. lawmakers to fund Internet freedom campaigns in the name of religious freedom. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky has more.
    VIDEO: Years ago, Falun Gong practitioners began developing technology to circumvent Beijing's Internet restrictions, and now a coalition of faith-based organizations are pushing U.S. lawmakers to fund Internet freedom campaigns in the name of religious freedom. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky has more.

    Related Articles

    Russia Asks Twitter to Block a Dozen Accounts

    Request made by the head of communications watchdog Roskomnadzor who said accounts deemed 'extremist'
    Falun Gong, a spiritual movement with Buddhist and Daoist influences, has been banned in China since 1999.

    About a decade ago, however, its practitioners began developing technology to circumvent the Communist government’s Internet restrictions, commonly known as the Great Firewall, a censorship and surveillance project operated by Beijing's Ministry of Public Security.

    “The initial purpose was to [circulate] free information regarding Falun Gong,” said software engineer John Yu, recalling the early stages of the project, which developed into a series of software programs known as Dynaweb.

    Operated from a secret location, Dynaweb now allows a multitude of users in China, Iran and other repressive countries to surf the web anonymously.

    According to Yu, who is no longer involved in Dynaweb, Falun Gong viewed its development as a moral imperative in a world where so many commercial software firms sought only to avoid upsetting China’s censors.

    “They don’t have the motive to do things like [circulate free information],” Yu said. “They do the opposite, and they make a lot of money.”

    Falun Gong is now one of an assortment of religious groups that see Internet freedom as vital to religious freedom.

    In a letter to the U.S. Congress last year, a coalition of groups including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, along with the Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism, said U.S. government-funded broadcasters should devote more of their budget to developing anti-censorship software.

    “Today’s Internet firewall systems are 21st century equivalents of the brick and barbed wire Berlin Walls of the 20th century,” the letter said.

    Lynne Weil, a spokeswoman for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or BBG, which oversees Voice of America and other government-funded international broadcasters, said the agency now obligates $25.5 million to Internet freedom efforts.

    She conceded, however, that the BBG “had to make some difficult decisions,” including cuts to production and transmission of content, to meet the funding obligation.

    Barrett Duke of the Ethics and Religious Liberty commission said some U.S. religious groups are looking for ways to proselytize internationally via the Internet, and welcome the U.S. government efforts.

    “I have no doubt that there are some people who will see that there’s a way to use that greater freedom to do that,” he said, adding that online evangelization requires an initial interest on part of the user.

    “Even if you put information out on the Internet, people still have to access it,” he said. “It isn’t as though it gets to them without them seeking it out.”

    Pastor Zhang Boli of Washington Harvest Chinese Christian Church in northern Virginia says his videos are often accessed by Christians in China using Falun Gong’s software. Christianity has been growing rapidly in China, he says, and censorship keeps converts from learning about their newfound faith.

    “Many of the pastors in China say they’re not very well educated about Christianity,” he said. “So people are always getting the wrong information. If the Internet block could be released, it would be very, very helpful for people to learn about the real Christianity.”

    Brian Grim of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation says faith groups operating overseas should be careful about supporting government anti-censorship efforts.

    “For a policy to try and circumvent Internet controls sounds almost like spying, so I think in many countries that would be perceived with some bit of skepticism if not alarm,” he said.

    But religious movements have a huge stake in how the Internet is run, he adds, because it is increasingly where people go to share their faith.

    Jerome Socolovsky

    Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Wangchuk from: NY
    June 27, 2014 11:58 AM
    The CCP's ban on falun gong and so-called house churches or to appoint Catholic bishops is without basis in law or the PRC Constitution. The CCP has no authority to simply ban an entire religion or belief system or to imprison someone simply b/c of their beliefs. It's a direct violation of the PRC Constitution & int'l law.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.