Tyrants everywhere are concerned about the growth of the Internet. Currently, there are nearly two billion Internet users. In other words, nearly half the adults and adolescents on the planet have access to the Internet. This is an unprecedented communications system, which can cheaply transmit letters (email), as well as voice and video files. In the last year, the number of Internet users grew by 18 percent. There are about 130 million blogs on the Internet, where all sorts of politically disruptive information is dispensed daily. What's a worried dictator to do?
The most common solution is to keep people too poor to use the Internet. Thus while Western nations have 60-90 percent of the population connected, the dictatorships of the world keep it at under ten percent, or even under one percent. In places like North Korea and Cuba, the government tightly controls Internet use. China, however, is a unique communist police state that has allowed a market economy to flourish, and with it came the largest Internet community on the planet.
There, the government has continued to add restrictions to Internet access to sites outside China. While there are ways around this, and millions of savvy Chinese take advantage of these technologies, most Chinese Internet users are not adept enough to understand the workarounds. News still gets circulated, but government efforts have slowed down the flow of unfavorable (to the government) items. Internet censorship within China continues, with efforts aimed to terrorize Chinese Internet users as much as possible. Regularly, Internet users who are caught spreading "forbidden" (embarrassing to the government) information on the net, are arrested and sent to prison. This is given wide publicity, just so everyone knows how things work in China.
While poverty, and outright bans, will control the Internet, they also leave the dictators broke and tired from hearing about all the trouble the children of the ruling elite are having getting onto the Internet (where they often cause problems for their parents). Moreover, the Internet has become a necessary element in any modern economy, and China is becoming the most striking example of how a police state can't have it both ways.