Software engineers and members of the spiritual group Falun Gong created the Global Internet Freedom Consortium (GIFC) to reach practitioners in China after the government began arresting Falun Gong leaders in 1999. In 2003 China’s “Golden Shield” program began censoring content and monitoring access to websites in support of Falun Gong. Software developed by the GIFC has become a crucial tool for evading government censorship and detection, and its range has spread outside of China. The group reports a million users in China, several hundred thousand in Iran, and thousands more in the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Burma, and Saudi Arabia. GIFC’s stance is unique because it strives to provide access to non-elite internet users; people who are technologically proficient have always been able to elude government censors, but those with less computer savvy have lacked the tools until now. GIFC is seeking financial support from the United States government to circumvent censorship, but so far they have not been allotted funds. While the group’s initial goal was to reach Falun Gong practitioners in China, they now relate the struggles of Falun Gong members in China to global struggles against government oppression. Read more here.
The Religious Dimension of Politics in Maoist China
By Mark Gamsa , Tel Aviv University
(Vol. 4, March 2009)
Secrecy and New Religious Movements: Concealment, Surveillance, and Privacy in a New Age of Information
By Hugh B. Urban , Ohio State University
(Vol. 2, November 2007)