Censoring China’s open source programmers could backfire

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For now, there are few clues as to what prompted the change, but censorship of certain types of language — profanity, pornography and politically sensitive words — has been spreading on the platform for some time.Official and public about Gitee feedback pagehave multiple users complaint On how the project was censored for unknown reasons, possibly because technical language was mistaken for a sensitive word.

A direct result of Gitee’s May 18 changes was that public projects hosted on the platform suddenly became unavailable without notice.Users complain about this service interruption even ruin their business. To make the code public again, the developer needs to submit an application and confirm that it does not contain any content that violates Chinese laws or infringes copyright.

Li has manually reviewed all of his projects on Gitee, and so far, 22 of the 24 projects have been restored. “But I don’t think the review process is a one-off, so the question is whether there will be increased friction for hosting projects in the future,” he said.Still, in the absence of a better domestic alternative, Li wants users to stick around: “People may not like what Gitee is doing, but [Gitee] Still need to get their day jobs done. “

This places an unreasonable burden on developers in the long run. “When you’re coding, you’re also writing comments and setting names for variables. Which developer, when writing code, wonders if their code can trigger a sensitive word list?” Yao said.

For almost every other aspect of the internet, China’s way of building its own alternative works well Last few years. But with open source software, a direct product of cross-border collaboration, China seems to have hit a wall.

“This practice of isolating the domestic open source community from risks from the global community is very contrary to the core proposition of open source technology development,” said Rebecca Arcesati, an analyst at the Mercator China Institute. a report About China’s bet on open source.

Chinese technologists don’t want to be cut off from the global software development conversation, she said, and may be uncomfortable with the direction China is taking: eager developers will be involved in what they see as government-led open-source projects. ”

And severing ties to the world prematurely could interrupt the rapid growth of China’s open-source software industry before its economic benefits are realized. As the government has stepped up oversight in recent years, a broader concern has overshadowed China’s tech industry: Will China sacrifice the long-term benefits of tech for short-term impact?

“It’s hard for me to see how China can do this without global connections to international open source communities and foundations,” Arcesati said. “We don’t yet.”

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