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Censorship

Real-Time Testing of China's Internet Filters 253

Posted by chrisd
from the but-do-they-block-wigu dept.
mrbnsn writes "The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School is conducting a study of Internet filtering in countries worldwide. As part of this study, they have put up a web page where you can get a real-time report on whether any URL you submit is blocked by the Great Firewall. Check whether you'd be able to read your favorite web sites in Beijing!" I've also heard that there are some "western" hotels that have non-blocked connections. Anyone from China care to tell us what it's like?
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Real-Time Testing of China's Internet Filters

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  • Oooo so close... I'm in Taiwan, could have been a really relevant (first) post...
  • by Nailer (69468) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @07:07AM (#4175703)
    ...the downfall of Chinese civilisation:

    Testing complete for http://www.stileproject.com. Result:
    Reported as accessible in China


    • Actually... (Score:5, Informative)

      by olesk (211973) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @07:13AM (#4175716)
      ...it depends. I was in China recently, visiting an old friend who lives there. He signed a document saying he was officially a foreigner and suddenly got CNN on his cable. Seems you can get away from most of it by not being Chinese, even in China.

      I prodded the "Great Firewall" when I was there, and realized some sites were cut off, like the CNN. Besides Yahoo and some other sites have tailor made pages for the Chinese. I made a SSH-tunnel back home to god old Norway though (no restrictions on protocols/ports it seemed, only some IP-adresses), so I had no problems. I don't think it would be much of an obstacle for most slashdotters :)
      • Re:Actually... (Score:3, Informative)

        by doop (57132)
        I visited China very recently (to attend a conference [dsfd2002-fudan.com] which was being held there), and stayed in a pretty Westernized [orientaltravel.com.hk]
        hotel with internet access.

        slashdot [slashdot.org] was accessible, as was google [google.com], which IIRC was even nice enough to talk to me in the appropriate language [google.com]. Some bits of yahoo.com [yahoo.com] were accessible, but not the webmail or news. CNN [cnn.com] and BBC News [bbc.co.uk] were both blocked, as were quite a few other news sites, and unsurprising things like Amnesty international [amnesty.org].

        I say blocked, but what I mean is that when I tried to access these sites, the connections would always just time out while others were fine. I can't remember what happened when I tried to ping them.

        I had no trouble downloading an SSH client and using it to connect back home.
    • Re:And so begins... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Raetsel (34442)

      • Starting testing...

      • Stage one testing complete.
        Stage two testing complete.

        Testing complete for http://google.com. Result:
        Reported as inaccessible in China

      Great. All the sleaze you want, but one of the premier search engines is off limits. Decline of civilization indeed -- perhaps the result will create an interesting test case for future anthropology and psych students.
      • no shit! google has to be one of the most useful things on the internet, and the internet is arguable one of the most useful things around today. tools for tool users. evolution for those monkeys that can.

        Poor bastards.

      • Testing complete for http://google.com. Result:
        Reported as inaccessible in China


        But there isn't much use for search engine like google if you can't access the pages you've searched for. I think the question is basicly about general access to every page on net, not about access to specific sites.
      • Maybe they're not overly fond of the Google Cache.
      • I'm near Shanghai and for the last 8 months I have been hear, Google has always worked fine..... until I woke up this morning. I gather everyone else can still access it so I wonder if it was freshly added today to the block list?

        While on this topic..... whats the 2nd best search engine - finding life without google to be difficult :(

        - HeXa
    • I'm the geek behind stileproject.com, camwhores.com(mentioned in another comment), etc.

      About a year ago, we had www.stileproject.com resolving to 6 different IP's in a round-robin DNS arrangement.

      Someone from China reported to us that we got blocked by the .cn government, but that every few days which IP of ours was blocked would change, but it was never more than one IP at a time, so he could still get in eventually.

      I'm not exactly sure why, but eventually they either gave up, or decided that the site's content wasn't worth banning anymore because they dropped it and nobody's emailed me in many months saying they were having problems.

      And yes, we've had several people from China send in subscriptions (always in cash, wrapped in a dozen sheets of paper) for camwhores.com. I think no matter what country you're in, there's some huge appeal of foreign porn. :)

  • on the percentage success that peek-a-booty [peekabooty.org] can get around a random sample of these Chinese-government blocked URLs. It would be interesting report to read, if anyone who has the capacity or people connections to can get some good effectiveness data.
  • by Lady Blue (134902) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @07:13AM (#4175712)
    What I want to know is how we, the coder community, can help people in China get around the site filters! I know there's one research project underway with proxy servers, but it'd be great if someone could come up with a cheap and easy hack that solves this. Any ideas?
  • no one IN china will be able to tell us, slashdot is on the list of known blocked sites.

    http://code.law.harvard.edu/filtering/list.html
    • Starting testing...
      Stage one testing complete.
      Stage two testing complete.

      Testing complete for http://slashdot.org. Result:
      Reported as accessible in China

      Slashdot is accessible apparently
      • Re:wrong (Score:5, Informative)

        by billbaggins (156118) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @09:32AM (#4175986)
        From the front page...

        http://slashdot.org - Reported as inaccessible in China
        http://www.slashdot.org - Reported as accessible in China

        Throw your result in (slashdot.org accessible), and what we get is either a filter on the fritz, or else this tester still has some bugs to be worked out of it. According to the FAQ, China's filter is based on IP address. Does slashdot's homepage have multiple IPs? (sorry, too lazy to check).

        For whatever it's worth, it seems that Saudi Arabia is not known to block slashdot [harvard.edu].

    • Either the list of blocked sites is flawed or the test is. Or maybe they switched the filter off.

      When I ran the test for slashdot.org [harvard.edu] I got the result:

      Testing complete for http://slashdot.org. Result: Reported as accessible in China

    • no one IN china will be able to tell us, slashdot is on the list of known blocked sites.
      http://code.law.harvard.edu/filtering/list .html


      Uhh, no. That's just a list of sites. Eventhough it says something in effect of "these are blocked", it's probably a typo. I don't believe China would have the balls to block Sourceforge and OSDN.

      How do I know that's a stupid list? Look at this entry below:

      http://www.FIRSTPOST.com - 8/31/2002 7:13:36


      Maybe Chinese hate people who post "First Post" and are trying to reduce spam? Who knows.
      • I don't believe China would have the balls to block Sourceforge and OSDN.
        Huh? What does that mean? Why would this take "balls"?

        Anyway...

        • I don't believe China would have the balls to block Sourceforge and OSDN.
          Huh? What does that mean? Why would this take "balls"?
          Y'see, whenever someone in China opens up a pipe to a blocked site, they have to run over really fast and stuff a ball in one end of the pipe so that the information can't get through. They can retrieve the ball after a timeout convinces the browser that the site doesn't exist, but if a site is really popular and a lot of people request it in a short time, they can actually run out of balls to stuff in pipes, the firewall breaks down, and they all burn to death. So they have to be very careful which sites they block.
        • Huh? What does that mean? Why would this take "balls"?

          Because this user believes in CowboyNeal's supah powah!!!

  • The Real Point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zeinfeld (263942) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @07:14AM (#4175718) Homepage
    The idea that the great firewall of China will protect the communist party is farcical. As with any wall it can do nothing against the threat that comes from inside the country.

    Of course in the mind of lunatic GOP nationalists nobody in the world outside of the US ever had an idea about freedom or human rights. But the Berlin wall failled and so will the great firewall.

    The criticism that will bring down the communist party is local. That is why they are so afraid of an AIDS activist who described how careless officials spread AIDS to whole villiages collecting blood plasma.

    Outside comment can play a useful role but politicians who agrandize themselves by claiming to have brought down communism in other countries are largely hot air bags.

    • Hmm, wasn't it Pres Reagan who said, "...tear down this wall!" Besides, this has nothing to do with the GOP...
      • Re:The Real Point (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Zeinfeld (263942)
        Hmm, wasn't it Pres Reagan who said, "...tear down this wall!" Besides, this has nothing to do with the GOP...

        A speach that went down well in the US but you miss out the start of the phrase, "Mr Gorbachev". Gorbachev did far more to end communism in the USSR than Reagan could.

        The Soviet Union collapsed because the Communist party had visibly lost control and Gorbachev was clearly not prepared to reassert it by force. The loss of control began in Poland and spread through Eastern Europe. It was the students from East Germany that tore down the wall, not Gorbachev or Reagan.

        If huffing and puffing from US politicians would blow down communist regimes then Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea would have fallen first. Instead they are still standing and it is pretty obvious that the regime is using the external hostility as an excuse.

        Cancel the sanctions against Cuba and the regime would be lucky to last more than five years. The right is keen to spend money on broadcast propaganda to attack Cuba but completely ignores the propaganda effect of tourists carrying fat wallets. Of course the Cuba sanctions policy is not about bringing down Fidel and has everything to do with getting votea in Florida so the effectiveness is not exactly the issue.

  • Are you sure this thing works?

    Both http://www.taipeitimes.com and http://www.chinatimes.com.tw are reported as being accessible in China.

    Also, I believe it is 4 star and above hotels in China that do not have restrictions on Sattelite TV and Internet access.
    • I believe it does not.

      e-gold shows as blocked from the Harvard computers, but either a LOT of Chinese use proxies to get around the blocking, or the filter-tester just doesn't work as they say/think. Chances are good that the Chinese government is big enough to pay for custom censorware, so maybe that explains it.
      JMR

      Speaking ONLY for myself!!!
  • Hong Kong is now part of China. I saw a rumour, can't remeber where, that there are secret undersea fibre optic cables running from Hong Kong to Macow to supply corporations with an uncensored internet connection.
    • HK and Macau were both *NOT* part of China for a long time. They're now both Special Administrative Regions and very independent.

      I'm in HK and, trust me, there are no restrictions on the internet here.

      As for cables to Macau, it would make some sense to run cables across the Pearl Delta from HK (it's not that far) just to avoid going through the Mainland, and because it's a shorter line. It would have been done a long time ago, though, well before Macau was handed back to China.

      Macau was only returned to China in 1999, *AFTER* HK (1997), so I can't see any advantage - if there was a crackdown, HK would have been first.

      Some of the sites on the 'inaccessible' list were for pro-Taiwan HK newspapers, so sites in one part of China are blocked from the main part.

      ah-wai
  • Testing complete for http://www.camwhores.com. Result:
    Reported as accessible in China

    Whoohoo!

    Apparently stileproject works too.. lol.
  • Anyone else notice that http://sourceforge.net is blocked? I've had Chinese developers asking me to mirror documentation on my sourceforge-hosted site because it was blocked.

    • Probably because of the subversive downloads hosted by sourceforge like some gnutella and freenet clients.
    • I'm in Shanghai. All project homepages (like speex.sourceforge.net) are blocked. www.sourceforge.net became blocked very recently. Thankfully prdownloads.sf.net and lists.sf.net are still accessible, so I can still download things and read mailing lists (if I can obtain the list names), but not much more.

      Google is accessible, so project homepages etc. can still be read via the google cache, but often it is a PITA.

      Of course I'm very unhappy about this, and cannot understand why. Maybe it is because of the `forge' in it, maybe they want to prevent IP leakage, or it may just be a mistake that no one cared to report. I want to send some interesting patches to PrBoom, but don't even know where to send them.

      • Well, it looks like a guy named Colin Phipps is maintaining this source. You can reach him at:
        cph [at] cph [dot] demon [dot] co [dot] uk.

        If you have a more specific contact request, then let me know and I will try to find it.

        Regards,
        Stephen
    • Figures... They block open-source but not warez!

      RIAA/MPAA should look to China as a role model of the American teenager if they keep pissing the "consumer" (I'm not a teen but I'm mad as hell) off.

      Up here in Canada, we have succeeded in a 15% decrease in music... Congradulations my fellow Canadians... Are CDs are 50% cheaper and we still pirate more...

      Per capita, more broadband, at a cheaper price, but it appears that when Canadians say boycott, more of us carry it out!

  • 218.2.131.246 - - [30/Aug/2002:18:18:43 -0500] "GET / HTTP/1.0" 200 1110 "-" "MSIE 5.0b1 ( Windows 98)" Rock on.
  • by Eloquence (144160) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @07:31AM (#4175738) Homepage
    This is the list [harvard.edu] of sites that have been found to be inaccsesible. A lot of them are the expectable human rights (Amnesty etc.), Tibet and Falun Gong stuff, as well as some news media (Yahoo Asia News, CBS News, BBC news, and many US-based China news sites).

    Geocities appears to be completely blocked.

    The Chinese government doesn't like Playboy or sex.com - hmm, do we see a correlation between repressive government and antisexual morals there? Nah, couldn't be.

    I have no idea why they censor {Insert Something Funny} [insertsomethingfunny.com], an obscure weblog [weblogs.com], an anti-tobacco group [gasp4air.org], the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society [cpawscalgary.org], Columbia Earthscape [earthscape.org], or Columbia University [columbia.edu].

    Google is on their shitlist. No surprise given its cache and large index. The Wayback Machine isn't - I'd expect that to change in the long term. Anonymizer is accessible as well.

    Peek-A-Booty and Freenet are not accessible, of course. It appears that all SourceForge sites are blocked (unless the testing engine is slashdotted and not working properly, but other sites are reported as accessible). I presume this might be because Freenet is hosted at SourceForge.


  • Testing complete for http://znet.org. Result:
    Reported as accessible in China



    Seriously, if Znet/NPR are not blocked in China, I don't see what the big deal is. Either Harvard folks coded that url checker with QBASIC or China is a Great place to live in.
  • Having a look at the recent requests on the main page [harvard.edu] I see:

    http://slashdot.org - Reported as accessible in China

    But on the Inaccessible Sites page [harvard.edu] I see:

    # http://slashdot.org - 8/29/2002 11:39:06 AM

    Something wrong with the test?
    • I have problems using the "test another URL" field. Seems it doesn't always update the site being checked and causes "random" blocked/unblocked results. The "block" errors are never logged to the list of blocked sites.

      It is much easier and more reliable to just edit the URL in the brower's URL field at the top.
  • Sigh... (Score:1, Offtopic)

    Testing complete for http://www.goatse.cx. Result:
    Site not reachable from US testing location. Check URL and web server.


    I guess somebody up in the Chinese government got tricked into going over to goatse.cx and got a real scare...
    • Testing complete for http://www.goatse.cx

      wow. That was original.

      You shall now be crowned as the KOMEDY KING of Slashdot.
      • Give him a break. It wasn't original or funny but it was neccessary.

    • Site not reachable from US testing location.

      I think that means that the Havard Law School has a filter which blocks goatse.
      Unfortunately there is no censoring in the US.

    • A week ago I got there (from china). Using links(1), of course. The text along is scary enough.
  • Extensive testing by worried geeks has shown that slashdot.org is still accessible from the Chinese part of the Internet. Further tests are scheduled for the next couple of days to make sure it stays.
  • Having an entire coutry filter content is ridiculous.. don't they realise how futile this is against anyone with even the most basic understanding of computers and network? It doesn't take a genious to setup an ssh tunnel to a proxy outside of china, or to do any other number of things that could circumvent the filters. Oh well... that's alot of money down the drain for nothing.
    • the problem is that if you're intelligent enough to set up such a tunnel, are you willing to rish being shot in the back of the head for doing so?
    • 1. You don't have to be 100% effective to be effective.
      2. Maybe the point is to remind Chinese citizens they can filter any part of the Internet whenever they want. This keeps the censorship precident active, in the event they want to *really* lock down on unfavorable opinions.
      3. Maybe they want information to slowly seep into the country to reduce the risk of information shock.

      These sort of arguments apply well to content protection schemes. It doesn't have to work 100% to work.
      • The real effectiveness lies in isolating those who know things. MOST people are not going to bother to cirumvent the filter and will continue to have their world shaped by the party. When and if you ever displease the party, "hacker" will be added to your list of crimes and no one will have any idea what you are talking about. You brought it on yourself your friends can say as they turn their back on you.

        I see the same kind of thing right here in the good USA. I just got burnt for "excessive" personal internet usage at my engineering job. My peers don't know what a google search is much less slashdot. Trying to explain that this a software news site and that I read it in part to keep up programing skill would be futile. Other people listen to online music, read CNN and other less work related things with impunity.

        As freedoms and personal dignity wane here, the rest of the world will suffer that much more.

        Look for your ability to post anything that would require filtering anywhere to go away. As multinational publishers and telcoms continue to gobble up the web, your ability to publish uncensored pages goes away.

        Anyone else want to build alternate networks? Think light and radio based backbone nodes with 811.b local distribution. No, I don't want to republish RIAA crap, swap porn or other Warez. What I want is the ability to publish MY content without AOL/McDisneySoft looking over my shoulder at my big five megs of advert wracked Geo Cities "web" pages.

        When all the censors finish their work, what's left will be a serries of billboards not worth browsing.

        End Rant.

  • by pfleisch (128023) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @08:21AM (#4175813)
    I just arrived in Dalian, China three weeks ago and I'm going to be here for a year working at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

    One of my main fears about coming here was the internet access. I was afraid that they would block any western site that could talk about democracy or badly about China in any way. Could it be possible that I might not be able to, gasp, read slashdot for an entire year? After I got here I found at that isn't the case at all. I can get to Slashdot, CNN, Yahoo, pretty much every site that I use on a regular basis. The only one that really pisses me off is sourceforge. Out of all the sites to block, why the hell did they pick that one? Maybe because they figure that if anyone does find a way to write a piece of software that could get around their firewall, that would probably be one of the first places it would be posted. I can't seem to come up with a better answer. Any ideas?

    Anyway, Google is not blocked, and neither is the cache, so if I ever do find a site that I can't get to, I just use Google's cache to get a general idea of what is there.

    Also, as far as the blocking of Playboy and other sex sites goes, any country where you can walk into a bar and have two prostitutes sitting on your lap within 5 minutes (no joke) has far more serious moral issues to deal with than a few internet sex sites. Enough said.

    • When I was in China I was glad to see that slashdot.org (about a year ago)wasn't blocked. Neither was the economist.com (which I found strange). But washington post, ny times, la times (and other major papers were blocked. ny times is not blocked now, right? Most of my news I could get from news.yahoo.com so I didn't really have any trouble with news sites, but virtually all free webhosting was blocked, and many universities were blocked as well. i used the Real-Time Testing link to test my old homepage at duke.edu and it said the link worked, but when I was in China the link definitely did not work.

      also, it's mostly only the foreigners who have two prostitues sitting on their lap withing 5 minutes. It's because foreigners go to those places and pay for prostitutes, supply meets demand, and an ugly cycle begins. (I never met one chinese person who frequented prostitues. They either couldn't afford it or didn't need one)
  • All sites tested here will be reviewed by party apparatchiks for inclusion in the filters.

    This site is nothing but a ploy to collect objectionable websites!

    Ok, not really. I just wanted to use 'apparatchiks' in a sentence. Btw, autopr0n [autopr0n.com] isn't filtered! Come on and visit, horny chinamen! (and horny Chinese lesbians too). Coincidentally, there happen to be lots of Asian chicks featured...
  • by chrisbolt (11273) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @08:38AM (#4175856) Homepage
    I just loaded it, and the first thing I saw was:

    http://www.shacknews.com - Reported as accessible in China
    http://www.slashdot.org - Reported as accessible in China
    http://www.slashdot.org - Reported as inaccessible in China

    http://www.kuro5hin.org - Reported as accessible in China

    hmm...

  • Does anybody know anything about the actual infrastructure that is the "Great Firewall of China"?

    I've done some googlin' but can't really find out anything about it. I think I heard once that Cisco had been involved in putting it together.

    I'm just idley curious - where is it/they? What platforms are used? What are the bandwidth requirements etc. Anybody know?
  • by nzhavok (254960)
    Starting testing...

    Stage one testing complete.

    Testing complete for http://www.xenu.com. Result:
    Site not reachable from US testing location. Check URL and web server.

    must be those dame scientologists in beijing
  • I was in China last spring break for a series of concerts. Wheil we were in Bejing, we stayed in the Carey Centre Hotel, which is one of the nicest in Bejing. So when we got to our rooms, obviousy, the 1st thing I went for was the internet connection. Well, It was a little box that looked like a TiVo which had come CAT5 cable coming out of the back and a coax cable to the TV. so we turned it on and..... it ran a chineese version of LINUX! My room mate and I were thrilled and we stayed up all night playing with the thing.

    Anyway, back to the firewall, it seems that CNN is accessable by the harvard website on this page

    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/filtering/china/tes t/ go.asp?URL=http://www.cnn.com

    my experiences are that the firewall only blocks certan IPs, not just allows certan IPs. So, you can telnet to your home box, use Lynx to brows the web remotely, and have no problems!

    • Or if you were really hardcore, and slightly paranoid about the Chinese government sniffing your login details to your home machine, you'ld use SSH to connect to it.

      Or even better, use the ssh -L port forwarding command to forward a local port on your machine in china to the squid port on your machine back home and browse the web using your browser of choice ;)
      • ssh -X unrestricted.host
        is the way to go.

        Forward X Window apps through the beauty of ssh. When people talk about the Internet routing around censorship as damage, this is what they mean.
        Mail me at anything at mmdc dot net if you truly need an unrestricted connection over ssh.
        I'll set you up (if you can use mozilla over X)...

        Cheers,
        Jim in Tokyo
  • The test site itself remains viewable by Chinese surfers, as does my web site.

    I think I'll post a copy of the blocked sites list. (insert evil grin here)

  • My vanity site [goldmark.org] is reported as inaccessible. I'm not sure why, but here are some guesses
    • It's vhosted, and there is something interesting I share that IP address with.
    • For a while, I reported all spam involving unresponsive Chinese network operators to the Chinese embassy in the US, telling them that this was a image problem for China.
    • After never having a response to those either, I started including in my LARTs to China text like "thank you for your support of a Free and Independent Tibet", hoping that that might get someone to pay attention.
  • Here's my experience while accessing the net through internet cafés, both officials and less official ones. Yeah, cnn.com is blocked. but money.cnn.com was not. It's not a very smart filter it seems.
    Some sites will just time out. In some places a proxy generated page will tell you about a breach of user agreement, both in english and chinese.

    It does not prevent young chinese boys to access plenty of pr0n in plain view in some cafés.

    Slashdot.org was accessible when I tried it. I even posted a comment on a similar story while a was there.
  • Thank Cisco [newsmax.com]. :)
  • Testing complete for http://www.whitehouse.com. Result: Reported as accessible in China Chinese Male 1: Ooooh! Rikey amerikan presidensu! Chinerse Male 2: Yes yes. I rooking and get BIG penis!
  • click me [archive.org]
    Me too. [harvard.edu]

    Just keep making web caches of the banned documents and they will have a "whack-a-mole" problem.
  • I lived in China for 2 1/2 years, retuning 2 years ago. In general, the Chinese gov't does little to restrict foreigners' access to outside world. They just don't want the average citizen to have access to "corruption". I have never had my baggage searched going in and out of China (many times) but the Chinese are frquently pulled over for inspection. TV is controlled. I lived in an apartment building that had only Chinese living there. TV had only Chinese programing on it. On a building for foreigners there is no problem setting up a dish and getting what you want. I had internet access in Shanghai and Beijing. I could never confirm it, but it seems there were dial-in numbers for Westerner's accounts and then there were different dial-in numbers for Chinese accounts. There were some websites I simply could not connect to. The only one I can remember for certain was anything on Geocities. But there were others. Generally speaking, Westerners are not bothered unless they want to attend, for example, a Falungong activity. :>)
  • ... to test out the rumored blocked sites when I was in Tian Jin (a city near Beijing) a few weeks ago. Well, there I found a netcafe, and got online for a few hours. Slashdot was definately accesible there, and IIRC google was accessible too. I forgot to get on those sites with "controversal" information, so I'm not sure. I didn't have the feeling that sites were blocked though... But the connection... you could expect it was pretty darn slow ;-p
  • With the multiple ssh and other scans, combined with so many spam images hosted in China, I have most of China's major ISPs blocked at my firewall. I have a network to protect.

    I figure that just blocking off the ISP is better than notifying them that they have someone trying to tunnel through my servers. What would an ISP there do after investigating logs to see who it was?

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