By Gao Gang
The two earthquakes that shook the South China Sea on December 26, 2006 were a huge shock to my colleagues and me. Although we didn't physically experience the tremors at our homes in Beijing, thousands of miles from the epicenter, its magnitude was evident from the instant disruption it caused to major Internet services. Serious damage to undersea cable networks, among them the US-China Cable Network, Apstar 1, Apstar 2, FLAG, FINAL and SMW3, as a result of the earthquakes prevented the transmission of much international and regional information. The temporary loss of the MSN service, a main channel of communication for China's netizens, was devastating. I generally use MSN for instant online conversations with colleagues and students, as well as my son, who is studying in the US. Life during the one-week loss of this tool of rapid communication seemed staid and colorless. It brought home to me just how indispensable the Internet has become within the basic infrastructure of human civilization.
Achievements in Internet communication over the past decade or so, in the fields of computer, telecommunications and network technology, demonstrate the enormous development potential of modern information technology, and the revolutionary changes to information dissemination the Internet has brought to humankind.
Development of the Internet integrates countries of the world, breaking regional, ideological and time boundaries. It is human civilization's commonly constructed, known and shared digital information space. Continuously developing Internet technology clearly demonstrates that network information dissemination is a mode of communication that embraces all regions, fields and social groups, and that multi-media capabilities energize network services. Databases constitute basic support for many information services, while information receivers actively participate in the creation and dissemination of information. The information industry is expanding and the mode of information production is undergoing reform. Large amounts of social data emerge daily, and new, hitherto undreamt of methods of information distribution abound. Communication barriers are gradually breaking down, allowing exploration of the means to a better life and stimulation of an ever-higher intelligence potential.
No one today is in any doubt that the Internet constitutes a virtual society. Internet information technology has created a digital civilization in cyber space with all the features and functions of human civilization. It exists according to its own rules of operation, at the same time progressing in tandem with actual society. Reality and virtual space now function on the basis of symbiotic energy exchange.
Digital virtual space, in common with actual life, thrives on multiple forms of nurture, in the forms of input, a secure environment and order.
We have already witnessed and benefited from the many conveniences and services rendered by the Internet. Along with the miracle it has created in our lives, however, it also brings danger, troubles, worries and conundrums. The Internet is a source of crime and harmful information that pollutes the innocent and injures lives.
Since the Internet integrated the entire world into one big body, the network information dissemination system has become a main component of continued human existence and security. As various countries each have their own culture, legislature, value systems and language, upholding an equable network environment is a major challenge.
Maintaining a safe digital network environment is the responsibility of Internet technology and content providers.
I believe that a discipline, based on safeguarding the Internet environment through formulation of an ecological network, is imminent.
The Internet belongs to all humankind. The Internet information environment issue, therefore, is one that encompasses the construction and protection of the entire global environment. We must, therefore, focus our attention on international cooperation in this regard.
There is much work to do in promoting international cooperation within the Internet environment. In my opinion, it starts on the premise of common recognition of the goals and responsibilities of global Internet information dissemination.
The Internet has become an accepted infrastructure facility within human society. As such, the following principles of Internet information dissemination should be internationally acknowledged.
The Principle of Maintaining Safe Internet Operation: As a basic feature of human civilization infrastructure, the Internet must guarantee international safety. The Internet is a facility for information communication and exchange that faces similar artificial and actual threats as other, more tangible infrastructure facilities. The purpose of both is to maintain human existence and social order. The international community, therefore, must set up a unified coordination system in order to maintain Internet safety.
The Principle of Respecting Diverse Cultures: We must respect the right of various countries and ethnic groups to describe, and express opinions on, their living environment; also their freedom to promote specific ideals and pursuits. All countries, ethnicities and cultures have the right to exist and develop within the world of Internet information. It acts as a platform for different cultures to learn about, communicate with and understand one other, in order to live in harmony.
The Principle of Protecting the Young: The Internet is a world of information. It performs the same educative function as schools and libraries. The Internet provides the information that enables young people to increase their knowledge of science and culture, train their life skills and achieve their ideals and dreams. We must, therefore, construct a healthy information environment for minors.
The Principle of Providing Useful Information: Internet content providers are under an obligation to provide information that helps us better understand our living environment, optimize our living conditions and attain life skills. Information of this caliber heightens standards of human civilization and contributes to human progress.
The Principle of Restraining Harmful Information: We must seek every means and adopt all methods necessary to reject and eliminate information that is detrimental to the principle of human virtue, the spirit of human civilization and the common pursuits of humankind. Information that poisons and destroys our living environment must be dispelled.
The Principle of Promoting Shared Information: Unbalanced economic development among various countries and ethnicities of the world is a main cause of international instability. Similar imbalances exist as regards the Internet, in its capacity of a new form of resources and civilization. Such inequalities are defined as the "digital gap." International society must pay attention to the dangers arising during the construction of an information environment. It must summon greater efforts towards providing better conditions for Internet infrastructure construction, information dissemination, and service development. An information base aimed at the common development of all nations in the Internet information era will enable us to share more effectively our material achievements as well as our heightened spiritual civilization. This will, in turn, achieve better understanding and closer cooperation among different communities.
The diverse cultures, legislatures, value systems and languages of the world's nations often act as barriers to international Internet cooperation. I nonetheless believe that as the Internet is the common wealth of humankind, international society is under a serious obligation to cooperate in safeguarding it.
We are all gratified at the extent of current international cyber cooperation.
In February 2004, the CNCERT/CC signed a cooperation agreement with the JPCERT. Prior to this, China confirmed its cooperation with the ROK. China is a member of FIRST, an organization with more than 200 member countries and regions. It is also a founding member of the APCERT.
On December 15, 2006, the China National Copyright Administration, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Business Software Alliance, the Association of American Publishers and Britain's Publishers' Association jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of a Coordination Mechanism for Online Copyright Protection in Beijing. Its aim is to strengthen international concord, as regards online copyright protection, and to combat the availability of pirated films, software, audio and video products and word documents on the Internet.
In Beijing on June 16, 2007, Internet information centers in China, Germany, the UK, the US, the ROK, Japan and Singapore jointly signed the Beijing Declaration. All expressed willingness to enhance exchanges and communication, and reached unanimous agreement on domain name administration.
In September of 2007, the Seventh International Conference on Cyber Crime organized by the International Criminal Police Organization was held in New Delhi. Its theme was the upcoming capacity of cyber-police to prevent and combat Internet crime.
We believe that deeper international understanding and accord on Internet information dissemination will act as a guarantee of common action to ensure a safer Internet environment.
China and the US are two nations prominent in the cyber world. The US is a major force in Internet infrastructure facility research and development, while China is a main force in Internet technology applications. Our two countries shoulder important responsibilities in construction of the cyber communications environment. Our respective Internet information dissemination practices have shown us the many wonders of the Internet, and at the same time its problems and conundrums. The experience we have had and the lessons we have learned, shared by countless Internet surfers, have contributed to our immense growth in the field.
The Internet is rapidly changing the world we live in. Less than 10 media organizations participated in the First Internet Media Seminar held in China in 1997. At that time, no more than 10 media websites operated under independent domain names. Today, almost all Chinese media have established their own platforms of Internet information dissemination and operation. In October this year, the School of Journalism of Renmin University of China, China Central Television and Cisco jointly constructed a TV broadcasting center at the Renmin University with Internet technology as its core infrastructure facility. China Central Television produced Us, a large-scale talk show, in this hall. It used Cisco Telepresence technology to interview people in various parts of the world, and ask their opinions on current topics related to China's development. Students from the School of Journalism participated in the production of this program, learning in the process about TV program production as supported by Internet information technology.
Cisco President John Chambers recorded the first show in the series on October 1. His topic was the influence of the Internet environment on young people.
It is an inspiring subject that embraces the news media, science and technology enterprises, education organizations, Chinese and American people, media communication, technology applications and education processes. These formerly discrete, independent entities with no overlap today blend on one platform – the Internet. This indicates to us how the Internet enables all human beings to get to know, understand and work with each other, and realize the common but diverse goals of the humankind.
Profile of Mr. Gao Gang
Professor and Executive Dean, School of Journalism, Renmin University of China.
Gao is also Executive Director of All-China Journalists' Association, President of the Journalism and Communication Branch of China Higher Education Association, and Director of Beijing Internet Media Association. In 1976 he was awarded his BA degree after completing his study in the Chinese Language Department at Peking University. He then moved on to study journalism at Renmin University and in 1987 he was awarded his MA. From 1988 to 1989, he fulfilled a post as a visiting scholar with the Department of Journalism at University of Arizona.
In the course of his 25-year career in journalism, he held positions with Beijing Daily, Spring Breezes Magazine, Worker Daily and Huasheng Magazine. Since 1996 Gao has been active in the realm of Internet media, including the founding of the Huasheng Magazine website.
Gao has been professor with the School of Journalism at Renmin University since September 2003.
(China.org.cn December 4, 2007)