Largest Publisher of Academic Books Bows to Censors in China

Another giant in the publishing world is found to be blocking access in China to academic research.

Springer Nature, which says it is the biggest publisher in the world of academic books, confirmed that it restricts access to over hundreds of different articles that cover subjects Chinese authorities deem too sensitive.

This revelation comes only two months after a decision was made by Cambridge University Press to un-censor articles in China following a furious backlash by activists and academics.

Springer Nature, based in Berlin, which Holtzbrinck Publishing Group along with BC Partners a private equity company own, publishes close to 3,000 journals. The journals include Scientific American, which is a popular magazine that has a history dating back over 170 years.

A search online in the journal of Chinese Political Science that the publisher owns reveals that several of the many research articles are not able to be accessed inside China’s mainland. The articles blocked included political keywords considered sensitive like Taiwan, Tiananmen and Tibet.

These articles appear when making searches in Hong Kong, a Chinese city that is semi-autonomous with a legal system of its own.

A search for example from Beijing for an article that contains the word Tiananmen came back with zero results, while the same search conducted in Hong Kong resulted in 92 articles.

Certain topics that did not immediately appear as sensitive were also blocked.  A search for China’s president Xi Jinping came up with no results on the mainland but a search in Hong Kong resulted in 78.

Other topics that are censored include Hong Kong and Cultural Revolution, and disgraced ex-politician Bo Xilai.

A Springer Nature spokesperson said that the company had filtered content to comply with the law in China. She said the decision had been regrettable, but otherwise there was the risk of all of its content being censored.

Springer Nature has estimated that close to 1% of its total academic content has been affected.

Leading China academics slammed the decision by Springer Nature to censor content in the second biggest economy in the world.

Public access in China to different websites is heavily monitored by the government. Popular search engines as well as social media sites including Facebook, Google and Twitter are blocked by using a technology that is commonly referred to as The Great Firewall.

Some popular news sites in the West are not available in China.

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