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Behind China's Great Firewall 148

Posted by timothy
from the draws-attention-to-what's-blocked dept.
DigitalDame2 writes "In light of the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing, more scrutiny is being placed on China's Web-filtering practices. In May, China's technology minister, Wan Gang, told Reuters China he would 'guarantee as much [access] as possible,' defending Web limitations as necessary to protect the country's citizens. Truly understanding this cat-and-mouse game means taking a close look at what exactly the government filters out, how the Great Firewall works, and how others have found ways around it."
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Behind China's Great Firewall

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  • by mactard (1223412) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:01PM (#23683927)
    I honestly want to see pictures of that thing. I mean, every single packet that goes in and out of China goes through a giant box. That thing has to be huge to filter any sort of serious bandwidth.
    • Re:Firewall tech (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:03PM (#23683945) Homepage Journal
      Who's to say it's not distributed among many (possibly hundreds) of gateways. It seems a bit impractical to think that China's internet connectivity funnels through one single geographical point, much less through one physical device. That, or you were being sarcastic...
      • Re:Firewall tech (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ricebowl (999467) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:06PM (#23684005)
        I have a feeling that, with the censorship being taken mostly at the ISP level in order to avoid governmental scrutiny/sanctions, that it occurs at the ISP's servers. So rather than any one piece of hardware doing all the work there's hundreds (I presume, I have no idea how many ISPs operate inside of China, though I'd expect there to be quite a few).
        • Re:Firewall tech (Score:5, Interesting)

          by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:51PM (#23684655) Homepage
          Actually just about every ISP outside of america has internet filters in place (even those in the supposed "free" the Netherlands).

          For starters if a country has 50% muslims, you can assume it filters the internet.

          If a country is not free in speech (and that qualifies quite a bit more countries than you'd think, including all European countries), then they have either ISP or judicial filters, that in practice means their isp's filter.

          Even Canada, matter-of-factly has ISP filters. Let's FIRST fix Canada, then we should move on to the UK or so, where there was one site that qualified as hate speech for advocacy against Blair.

          I don't think what China does is good, I just question singling out China. And there are many countries where you actually might make a difference.

          Besides slashdot users where by far in favor of sensoring stuff if it endangered people's safety, like when death threats were made by muslims about wilder's film. That was in the UK.

          Let's start there. Then, AFTER that, and all other European countries and after Canada, then we can move Canada. What point is there in saying as a non-free country to China that they should be free ?
          • This seems like a VERY good case to start with in Canada :

            http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007/dec/07121902.html [lifesitenews.com]

            If he gets convicted, what difference will the absense of ISP filters make ?
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by vajaradakini (1209944)
              Do you care to provide a source that isn't a right wing website?

              Perhaps one that doesn't include statements like this: in a country with Sunday shopping, abortion rights and same-sex marriage...[h]uman rights commissions are vestigial organs, a historical correction that no longer serves any useful function. in attempts to prove a point. I mean, to say that just because women have the right to reproductive freedom (if they live in a major city), gay people can get married and everyone can go shopping
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Stewie241 (1035724)
                I think the point was that there is no need for ISP filters if people are being fined by a human rights commission for speaking freely.

                This saves the ISPs effort - they don't have to bother, because threats of legal action will scare people into silence.

                I don't know the facts - just clarifying his argument.
                • But to say that a human rights commission isn't needed at all because we can go shopping on days when Christians traditionally took the day off work is ludicrous. I mean, even if one ignores the fact that there are still issues with the rights of women women [amnesty.ca] (which doesn't even touch on the issue of the lack of abortion access to most women) or aboriginals [amnesty.ca] there are still issues with the rights of those who are caught up in trouble in the name of "counter terrorism" measures.

                  I'm not saying that it's r
                  • But to say that a human rights commission isn't needed at all because we can go shopping on days when Christians traditionally took the day off work is ludicrous.

                    Don't disagree... Would be interested in seeing how the HRC handles issues of free speech. I really appreciate the freedom I have to agree or disagree with the government and current public opinion.

                    I'm not saying that it's right for people to be censored because they offend people, but there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of human rights here (and elsewhere).

                    Absolutely. Though human rights are by nature a limited resource - if you give one human too many rights it impedes on the rights of another.

                    I would also contend that, based on the sorts of websites I can access and the sort of bigotry I can find that isn't censored, the human rights commission is extremely ineffective at silencing the sorts of people who would make negative statements about minority groups online. The grandparent post didn't provide what I would consider a particularly reliable website for information so I don't really know if the issue is just censorship or if there's something else to it (i.e. if the author is attempting to incite violence against a group, should they still be allowed to do so even if it's just talking?).

                    This isn't about right-wing compartmentalized websites... if you are only allowed to speak freely if you are a small time website, isn't that marginalization?

                    I should

                    • Absolutely. Though human rights are by nature a limited resource - if you give one human too many rights it impedes on the rights of another.

                      There is more going on than this. If every heap of cells that satisfies the definition "human" is to have equal rights then :

                      -> no abortion (obviously) I don't think anyone would seriously advocate ending one life to increase the comfort of another
                      -> only sex within marriage (since a pregnancy cannot be terminated, and if a child is born it has "a right" to 2 pa
              • by arotenbe (1203922)

                in a country with Sunday shopping, abortion rights and same-sex marriage...[h]uman rights commissions are vestigial organs, a historical correction that no longer serves any useful function
                So they're acknowledging the theory of evolution?

                Hmm...
                • Are you seriously claiming the defendant is anti-evolutionist ?

                  Otoh ... the complainant is a young-earth creationist. I'm not saying he believes the quran says this, he actually has an article online advocating young-earth creationism, and co-manages a school that teaches creationism in a sex-segregated environment.

                  I know that for progressives it's hard to imagine that not every progressive has the same opinion, but this guy is "progressive" (or let's say he has the backing of "progressives", he does not be
            • There's a great interview with Mark Steyn from TV Ontario's "The Agenda". The second part of the show has the three Osgoode Hall law students who made the initial complaint to Maclean's Magazine, and I was happy to see that they all consented to discuss the issue together in the third segment of the show.

              It's available in five parts on YouTube. Here's part one: http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=ApcnpFCYd7E [youtube.com]

              I found it extremely interesting and I recommend it as a must-watch for Canadians everywhere.


              I
          • by Dan541 (1032000)

            Actually just about every ISP outside of america has internet filters in place
            Really I see allot of stories on /. about ISPs messing with their user's traffic.

      • Re:Firewall tech (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2008 @02:22PM (#23685087)
        Yes, and no. According to Erik Laykin of Navigant Consulting there are 3 points that connect China to the interweb (I think maybe Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzho.) The Chinese government is indeed spanning all 3. But considering that you have traffic for over 200 million people flowing through those 3 points, there are hundreds if not thousands of devices scattered all over the country to make up the Golden Shield. Interestingly, many of those devices of censorship were supplied by Cisco, Oracle, Microsoft, etc. Long live capitalism!
    • by jtheisen (893138)
      Contrary to common belief it is indeed the Great Firewall, and not the Great Wall, that is the only man-made object that can be seen from space with the naked eye.
  • Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jor-Al (1298017) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:05PM (#23683981)

    defending Web limitations as necessary to protect the country's citizens.
    Yes, without filtered internet, who knows what untold damage might sweep through the populace!
    • defending Web limitations as necessary to protect the country's citizens.
      Yes, without filtered internet, who knows what untold damage might sweep through the populace!

      Questioning and opposing their Government?

      • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

        by ricebowl (999467) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:18PM (#23684159)

        defending Web limitations as necessary to protect the country's citizens.
        Yes, without filtered internet, who knows what untold damage might sweep through the populace!
        Questioning and opposing their Government?

        Only terrorists question or oppose their government! Are you a terrorist?

        • by oahazmatt (868057)

          Only terrorists question or oppose their government! Are you a terrorist?
          Negative, I am a meat popsicle
      • by Drakin020 (980931)
        Yes, god forbit people stand up for themselves and ask question.

        I'm glad China is there to ensure nothing like that happens. /For the greater good.
    • by Gat0r30y (957941)
      Tubgirl?
    • by ch-chuck (9622)
      They need filter internet to keep us Mongol hordes [wikipedia.org] with our deviant sexual practices and unhealthy diets out of their civilized society.
  • errrmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:06PM (#23683997)
    FTA:

    Even the good old U.S. of A. has restricted access in some cases. In May 2007, just a few weeks after placing restrictions on soldiers' blogs, the Department of Defense blocked access for soldiers to 13 "social networking and recreational" Web sites such as MySpace and YouTube, claiming that they took up too much bandwidth and presented operational risks. Ultimately, the ban severely limited the ability of soldiers overseas to communicate with loved ones at home, especially since the sites couldn't be accessed throughout much of Iraq and Afghanistan.
    I'm not sure once can draw a moral equivelancy between the Army blocking what soldiers do over Army internet connections from war-zones and the Chinese blocking internet access for regular citizens.

    Until the USA starts filtering my access to the BBC, I don't really know why they even brought that up -- its just like workplace filtering at any other job.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Is a world without myspace a world we want to live it!
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And soldiers not being able to watch YouTube videos or view MySpace profiles severely limits their ability to communicate with loved ones? What is he smoking?

      I'd argue that all a soldier really needs in order to communicate with loved ones is email, but they're getting a lot more access than that.

      Oh, they're so repressed! /sarcasm
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Nah, youtube is not that important. But pr0n is! Thanks God we live on the blessed USA, where our government doesn't warrantless wiretap our conversations, doesn't read our e-mails, doesn't send people to military prisons on Islands without right to bail or to a jury, doesn't arrest people without a court order, and doesn't block our soldiers to watch pr0n.
        What???!!! They blocked our soldiers access to pr0n!!! Oh, my dear God, now it is time for a revolution! What they gonna do next? Take our right to watch
      • by Flamora (877499)
        Except for the fact that it's a lot more meaningful to actually see and hear your family through, say, a video taken from your computer's webcam than some text on a screen.

        Now yes, if it's not being used properly, sure, but the article has a damn good point about that.
        • by Jor-Al (1298017)
          No it doesn't. The filtering of the internet usage of an employee is in no way analogous to country-wide internet censorship by the government.
          • by Flamora (877499)
            Referring more specifically to what the article mentions the soldiers using YT for, not the actual analogy. Apologies if that wasn't clear.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by pythonist (1289628)
      Content filtering really makes no difference for ordinary Chinese lives, just as banding CCTV's website or South Morning Post website in western countries make no real difference for westerners. People in China don't read CNN/BBC anyway.

      We would rather concern about the turtle speed of "broadband" internet provided by ISPs. Construction of cyber infrastructure has a long way to go in China.
  • Silver lining... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hankapobe (1290722) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:08PM (#23684027)
    ...these measures are put in place to protect children and other Internet users from illegal and offensive content.

    This is an illustration of the slippery slope and we all should show this to anyone who wants to censor or regulate the internet for obscene material or to "protect the children".

    As a matter of fact, here's a perfect illustration how the "think of the children" rhetoric can be and is used for oppression of a people.

    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:15PM (#23684119) Homepage Journal
      Why do you hate children so much? Are you some kind of cold, heartless terrorist?
      • Why do you hate children so much? Are you some kind of cold, heartless terrorist?
        Apparently I am. Or at least the mod who gave me a "-1 Troll".
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Jor-Al (1298017)
          Wow this mod must be pmsing today. They've given troll mods to almost half a dozen posts so far. I'm still baffled by how any of them are trolling, though. Has Wan Gang become a slashdot mod?
          • by Gat0r30y (957941) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:23PM (#23684231) Homepage Journal
            Ok, who gave the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre all these mod points?
          • Re:Silver lining... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Rycross (836649) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:23PM (#23684237)
            I've noticed that theres a small contingent of very nationalistic Chinese Slashdot users who get butthurt whenever anyone says anything remotely negative about the Chinese government. Usually its with a "OMG Why do you hate us so much!?" sort of mentality that I previously thought was exclusive to blindly patriotic Americans (yes I'm American). Thats probably who's doing the down-modding.

            I'm a bit amazed at how hesitant a lot of Chinese guys I know are to say anything remotely negative about the Chinese government and get really upset if you insinuate that its not all fluffy bunnies and flowers with the government. But then again I'm used to pretty much everyone complaining about my government.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by cyfer2000 (548592)
              Basically, the logic is "I know my government is a son of bitch, but it is still my son of bitch."
            • by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:47PM (#23684591)
              You're also not used to having to look over your shoulder, wondering who is listening and what their real intentions are.

              It's like how America is still looked upon favorably in parts of Eastern Europe, like Georgia. When you've experienced REAL dictatorship, REAL secret police, and REAL oppression, then you look at things differently than does the college kid who had his feelings hurt, so he blames it on whatever boogyman is popular to blame.

              When you've spent your entire life wondering where little billy went after he said "i think mao sucked," you're going to be warry of saying those things and probably go out of your way to make sure that anyone else who heard it knows YOU didn't endorse that statement so that nothing happens to YOU.

              We may be run by a bunch of retards and jackasses, but no matter how bad we have it, we still have it a lot better than the majority of people in the world.

              Just something to think about.
              • We may be run by a bunch of retards and jackasses, but no matter how bad we have it, we still have it a lot better than the majority of people in the world.
                Retards and jackasses huh? We'll see just who's a retard and a jackass after you spend some time in Gitmo!

                Thanks,
                DHS

                • by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday June 06, 2008 @02:44PM (#23685427)
                  I have my party card in my wallet and a number of Congressmen's cellphone numbers handy. I'm not going anywhere, citizen.

                  No, that isn't a joke either. I really do.

                  But the government also isn't rounding up Americans off American streets and sending them to secret prisons (if they are, they're doing a good job keeping it secret).

                  They're rounding up foreigners that they get in foreign countries, who are (allegedly) in the act of doing stuff.

                  FDR made up the whole "enemy combatant" thing, lest we forget. And most of the interned Japanese were citziens or legal residents. I have yet to see DHS going around picking up taxi drivers and 711 clerks on suspicion of aiding and abetting the enemy.

                  I don't like Bush either, but can we please at least keep the accusations to things that he's actually done?
              • by Rycross (836649)
                I was more referring to the ones I know in person. Though I do have Chinese American friends who are pretty critical of the government. I was also more referring to vehement opposition to anything remotely critical of the Chinese government. I can understand being hesitant to criticize the Chinese government within China, but at the same time arguing with critics is more pro-government than I'm-afraid-of-my-government (which would probably entail not saying anything).
                • by bsDaemon (87307)
                  Well, Irish Americans like to pretend that it's all bread and roses in Ireland, same as Jews love Israel. No one wants to be told that "their people" are doing something wrong, because it can come off as an attack on them, ie "China's government is bad" turns into "the Chinese are bad," which conflicts with "I'm Chinese," and leads to a response of "you just wouldn't understand," or "RACIST!!"

                  Not saying that's necessarily the case in any particular context, but any immigrant community is going to carry ove
            • You assume they are Chinese. Why do you assume that?
              • by Rycross (836649) on Friday June 06, 2008 @02:53PM (#23685559)
                Because the posts in question where I noticed this claimed that they were Chinese. The people I met in person were, in fact Chinese. It is not a huge logical gap to think that people defending the Chinese government are, at least in part, Chinese. Whats your point?
            • Re:Silver lining... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by value_added (719364) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:53PM (#23684675)
              I've noticed that theres a small contingent of very nationalistic Chinese Slashdot users who get butthurt whenever anyone says anything remotely negative about the Chinese government.

              Not just Slashot users, but Chinese in general. I watched a news program or documentary recently that covered the subject, and it turns out the Chinese, the young and college educated particularly, exhibit the same reaction.

              It turns out that, and I'm generalising here, the Chinese, if they don't "like it that way". have few objections to strong government control. For a westerner that might be hard to fathom, but I think it's unfair to dismiss their preferences as absurd or characterise them as the result of some sort of brainwashing.

              What shouldn't be hard to fathom is that for someone who's Chinese, China is their country. Last I checked, national pride is a universal phenomenon, and treading on other's sense of identity or pride, however enlightened or well-intentioned, is always bad form and inevitably leads to conflict.
              • by Rycross (836649)
                China has a lot to be proud about. They're doing an admirable job building an economy and improving the average life of their citizens. But at the same time, human rights abuses should not be overlooked. Having pride in ones' own country is fine. But being proud of ones' country means that you also have high expectations of it. I'm disappointed in my country's behavior because I am proud of it, as strange and illogical as that seems.

                I don't see why we should hold back on criticizing a country that is n
                • No-one says that Europeans do not have a right to criticize America.
                  I'd qualify that by saying "No one rational" says that. I've seen plenty of jingoists talking about how Europe has no right to judge "Merika" based on [insert nonsensical excuse].
              • by jsm (5728)
                If that news report was the recent article on PBS' News Hour, then don't forget that those students they interviewed were hand-picked by the Chinese authorities for the interview.

                Not that it wasn't informative. Maybe there are many who share their view. One interesting thing the students said was that non-Chinese people don't appreciate how much change the Chinese government *has* allowed, how much different it is now than it was. While I hope that's true, I'd counter that the Chinese government hasn't c
                • Knowledge of Chinese history helps put things in perspective.

                  Prior to the 20th century, China was ruled by emperors. They were autocratic and restrictive. Progress in China had essentially halted for hundreds of years, and the place was being overrun by Europeans.

                  In the early 20th century, the emperors were finally overthrown and China's government changed to a republic. This government was brutal and ineffectual, and the situation quickly degenerated into civil war.

                  Not too long after this, the Japanese saw
            • that there are han imperialists and han apologists shouldn't really amaze you. every culture and country in this world: russia, brazil, nigeria, mexico, india, etc., etc. has a loud vocal nationalist sentiment

              the americans that engage in nationalist chest thumping of course deserved to be spoken out against, but most importantly on this point, in the usa, according to law, you can actually speak out against them

              whereas in china, or cuba, or turkey, and other countries, to criticize your country or your gove
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Hankapobe (1290722)
            Yeah! Who do we talk to about keeping folks from a ".cn" domain modding on China internet stories?
    • I never really discussed the Filthy Speech Movement with my old friend "Charlie Brown" Artman, but he was a very logical and thorough thinker. He never got cynical about being right, unlike myself. The problem that (many) see as "where to draw the line", (some) see as "YOU can't draw MY line". IMHO Freedom of Speech means freedom of speech, but I certainly don't speak for The Electorate. Freedom of "thought" combined with representational democracy ensure that the ignorant masses will continue to crush diss
  • Hell with them... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) * on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:11PM (#23684081) Journal
    China's technology minister, Wan Gang, told Reuters China he would "guarantee as much [access] as possible," defending Web limitations as necessary to protect the country's citizens.

    Protect them?

    PROTECT THEM???

    From WHAT??? Other than finding out what a murderous bunch of thugs run their craptastic fascist gov't?

    RS

    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Friday June 06, 2008 @02:01PM (#23684791) Homepage Journal
      Don't get outraged. everyone knows it's crap and that it's in place to protect the current government.

      They don't want people reading how all their peasants are moving to cities into sweat shops, they don't want there people to ahve a tool to use to organize rallys. The last thing they need is another tank man;which most people under 20 in China have never even heard of.

      • Except for the people that posted about the stupidity of trying to protect the children... as if the Chinese government was actually being honest when they said what they were doing it for *blinks*
    • by Tweenk (1274968)

      China's technology minister, Wan Gang, told Reuters China he would "guarantee as much [access] as possible," defending Web limitations as necessary to protect the country's citizens.
      PROTECT THEM???
      From WHAT???
      Persecution by their own government for accessing counter-revolutionary and imperialist websites, of course.
  • Deal w/ it every day (Score:3, Interesting)

    by J05H (5625) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:12PM (#23684095) Homepage
    It's understandable from a policy level but they have been throttling the hell out of their trans-Pacific connections. Our team over there was getting 36kbs downloads from a (flaky GoDaddy client) connection the other day.

    The truth is the Chinese govt. faces a very real terrorism threat w/ the upcoming Olympics and are doing everything including monitoring the Net to keep it from happening.
    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:16PM (#23684133) Journal
      It's more the pity that the biggest threat would be no one showing up to offer support to the Butchers of Beijing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's understandable from a policy level but they have been throttling the hell out of their trans-Pacific connections. Our team over there was getting 36kbs downloads from a (flaky GoDaddy client) connection the other day.

      The truth is the Chinese govt. faces a very real terrorism threat w/ the upcoming Olympics and are doing everything including monitoring the Net to keep it from happening.

      I'm sorry, but this doesn't hold water. They do this daily, and have for years. It's not about protecting their citizens or infrastructure from terrorist threats, it's about protecting their privileged status and controlling their populace.

  • Hm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fayn (1003629) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:15PM (#23684117) Homepage
    Now that I think about it, the way China is right now is strikingly similar to how view an Internet in which Net Neutrality has been soundly defeated and one can only visit approved sites. There are, of course a few differences...govm't approval vs. corporate sponsorship. But the end result of a strictly regulated Internet experience remains the same. Or I could be completely full of it.
  • Blogs (Score:5, Informative)

    by goatpunch (668594) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:21PM (#23684199)
    I was in China last month and the only sites that I had any problem accessing were blogs. It seemed that most popular blog sites were completely blocked. Wikipedia, Slashdot, Youtube, Facebook, etc. were all accessible. They don't seem to be using a whitelist though, as my own small unimportant domain worked fine.

    In retrospect, blocking blogs isn't such a bad idea...
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What's wrong with blogs?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by coaxial (28297)
        They're hard to control.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by bsDaemon (87307)
          Its not even so much that they're hard to control as it is that they lack any sort of journalistic integrity or professional ethics. They are often poorly written and filled more the opinion and innuendo than actual information.

          Due to certain disgraceful actions on the part of main-stream journalists in the past, and due to perceived bias or partisanship by at least half of the population towards a source, a lot of people are looking towards "unfiltered" "sources" of "information," because they mistakenly
          • by coaxial (28297)
            The great irony of citing blogs as "news" is that the mainstream media has been adapting this itself.

            CNN for instance is pushing their "iReports" where people can submit stories. Then of course, Huffington Post frequently shows up on all sorts of cable news pundit shows. (Like Harry Shearer really has any insights.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sdsucks (1161899)
      I was also in China last month.

      I had a hard time accessing:
      - Some blogs as well
      - Some earthquake news in the days immediately following the event (Some was accessible, some not)
      - Some other misc news sites would not load. (Google world news page was out on me for days, while most other google news and google sites worked fine) ... I didn't go looking to hard for anything that would raise flags.

      FWIW I think the blocking is mostly keyword based.
      • by goatpunch (668594)

        FWIW I think the blocking is mostly keyword based.

        I tried pulling up some Wikipedia pages that I thought might be blocked: Falun Gong, Dalai Lama, etc. and all seemed to work fine, with full history of the page and all 'subversive' content easily readible.
    • Re:Blogs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by coaxial (28297) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:44PM (#23684557) Homepage
      That's interesting. I was in Beijing in April, and stayed at an "international" hotel there across the street from the Bird's Nest, and documented some experiments [robotmonkeys.net].

      My television received NHK, TV Monde, and CNN International. Once during a CNNi story about the protests in Tibet did the cable cut out. I have heard of the government doing that, but the images were later shown on CCTV, but of course the accompanying commentary would very likely be different.

      Wikipedia was accessible, except for certain pages. Google.com was accessible, but if you googled a certain phrases, the connection would be reset, and you couldn't access google for a few seconds.

      Domains like tibet.com simply wouldn't resolve.

      Seemed like every Taiwanese forum/blog was blocked.
      • by hweimer (709734)

        Wikipedia was accessible, except for certain pages. Google.com was accessible, but if you googled a certain phrases, the connection would be reset, and you couldn't access google for a few seconds.
        Sounds familiar. You can see the filtering in action even without having to visit China simply by using Tor [quantenblog.net].
        • by coaxial (28297)
          I used Tor while I was there and didn't encounter any problems. (For some reason, my exit nodes tended to be in Germany.)

          When I was in Beijing, I met a few college students, and they were well aware of how censored the Internet was in China. They seemed to find it more annoying than anything, but at the same time mostly a nonissue since most of the sites they visit are Chinese. I forgot to ask if they ever used Tor to access some of the forbidden sites.

  • How it works. (Score:4, Informative)

    by physman_wiu (933339) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:21PM (#23684203)

    In America, the Internet was originally designed to be free of choke points, so that each packet of information could be routed quickly around any temporary obstruction. In China, the Internet came with choke points built in. Even now, virtually all Internet contact between China and the rest of the world is routed through a very small number of fiber-optic cables that enter the country at one of three points: the Beijing-Qingdao-Tianjin area in the north, where cables come in from Japan; Shanghai on the central coast, where they also come from Japan; and Guangzhou in the south, where they come from Hong Kong. (A few places in China have Internet service via satellite, but that is both expensive and slow. Other lines run across Central Asia to Russia but carry little traffic.) In late 2006, Internet users in China were reminded just how important these choke points are when a seabed earthquake near Taiwan cut some major cables serving the country. It took months before international transmissions to and from most of China regained even their pre-quake speed, such as it was.

    Thus Chinese authorities can easily do something that would be harder in most developed countries: physically monitor all traffic into or out of the country. They do so by installing at each of these few 'international gateways' a device called a 'tapper' or 'network sniffer,' which can mirror every packet of data going in or out. This involves mirroring in both a figurative and a literal sense. 'Mirroring' is the term for normal copying or backup operations, and in this case real though extremely small mirrors are employed. Information travels along fiber-optic cables as little pulses of light, and as these travel through the Chinese gateway routers, numerous tiny mirrors bounce reflections of them to a separate set of 'Golden Shield' computers.Here the term's creepiness is appropriate. As the other routers and servers (short for file servers, which are essentially very large-capacity computers) that make up the Internet do their best to get the packet where it's supposed to go, China's own surveillance computers are looking over the same information to see whether it should be stopped.

    Think again of the real importance of the Great Firewall. Does the Chinese government really care if a citizen can look up the Tiananmen Square entry on Wikipedia? Of course not. Anyone who wants that information will get it-by using a proxy server or VPN, by e-mailing to a friend overseas, even by looking at the surprisingly broad array of foreign magazines that arrive, uncensored, in Chinese public libraries.

    What the government cares about is making the quest for information just enough of a nuisance that people generally won't bother. Most Chinese people, like most Americans, are interested mainly in their own country. All around them is more information about China and things Chinese than they could possibly take in. The newsstands are bulging with papers and countless glossy magazines. The bookstores are big, well stocked, and full of patrons, and so are the public libraries. Video stores, with pirated versions of anything. Lots of TV channels. And of course the Internet, where sites in Chinese and about China constantly proliferate. When this much is available inside the Great Firewall, why go to the expense and bother, or incur the possible risk, of trying to look outside?

    All the technology employed by the Golden Shield, all the marvelous mirrors that help build the Great Firewallâ"these and other modern achievements matter mainly for an old-fashioned and pre-technological reason. By making the search for external information a nuisance, they drive Chinese people back to an environment in which familiar tools of social control come into play.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200803/chinese-firewall [theatlantic.com] So they are going to let certain IPs get anything they want. So it won't even seem like there is a 'Golden Shield' to most foreigners that visit China for the Olympics.
  • Terrible (Score:3, Informative)

    by gigne (990887) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:23PM (#23684225) Homepage Journal
    Ugh. A terrible article which you could summarise in one sentence..
    "Use a VPN or proxy if you want to use the internet without fear or restriction."

    I was hoping for more detailed information on the operational hardware involved in filtering a country, not confirmation it happens, which is already widely known.
  • Don't worry. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by physman_wiu (933339)
    I really think that they feel they have a reason to censor the net for places where most foreigners are going to be hanging out during the Olympics. Most of those places aren't going to have your average Chinese citizen just looking for a way to get around the firewall.

    The government cares about their 'face' and they aren't going to want to the rest of the world seeing what they do control. They'll just let those places have access and then after the Olympics, restrict it again.
  • blocked sites (Score:3, Informative)

    by pangloss (25315) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:31PM (#23684345) Journal
    Some of the sites that I know to be blocked:

    Blogger
    Blogspot
    Flickr (only the photo serving subdomains)
    Typepad
    Wordpress

    Formerly blocked, but now open:
    Wikipedia
    BBC News

    As far as I'm aware, the blocks on the blog-related sites are domain or netblock level--not the result of keyword or content-level filtering.
  • Defend citizens (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:39PM (#23684465) Journal

    ...necessary to protect the country's citizens.
    It's not protecting Chinese citizens that's the problem. It's protecting the rest of the world from the Chinese citizens [slashdot.org] that concerns me.
  • by umbl3r (1247150)
    i was in a hotel in china once for work, and got the connection turned off because i was using TOR and they couldn't see what i was doing LOL, so i just used someones wifi
  • Largely, amongst the well educated, English speaking professional Chinese people that I meet (I've lived in China for 2 years) who are in their mid/late 20's, the reverence and respect they havefor the CCP is probably more fervant tham amongst the older generation who helped to found the People's Republic. The patriostism gives way to nationalism, and I find some of my friends who I had respected as having been able to form their own intelligent opinions on the world at large have descended into China-loving, French-hating lunatics.

    Westerners have to try to understand that the generation that's in it's mid-late 20's owe their standard of living and level income to the Communist Party, they and look to the party members for moral guidance. Propaganda, even on the "international" CCTV-9 has reached an all time high with wall to wall interview of people who have lost everything praising the work of the government.

    When it comes to Internet censorship, it's largely a joke. Websites can be overcome with any number of web proxies, and even if you can't get to the porn that you want, you can go to the local computer markets in Zhongguancun or Chaoyangmen, where you'll be offered "DVD sex movies". The BBC had been unblocked, but blocks are still in place for servers on Flicker and on Livejournal and Blogspot.

    The government here is rather sneaky. They don't say that they actively and specifically filter websites, rather, they ask ISPs to self-censor and these ISP's face heavy fines for allowing undesirable content through. This is the reason that websites that are accessbile in Shanghai aren't accessible in Beijing or other parts of China.

    A good project to keep an eye on is Concept Doppler, which has a list of what keywords and phrases are filtered by the GFW. What is interesting is that of all the tests that CD team performed, a certain number of the phrases did managed to get through the filter, showing that the GFW doesn't filter everything all the time, but filters some most of the time, which creates the impression that everything is filtered, and, ultimately, keeps people scared.

    • Here's the link: http://www.conceptdoppler.org/ [conceptdoppler.org]
    • That's interesting, because my impression has been quite different. From what I've seen, the people that age are largely apolitical. Not anti-Communist at all, they just don't care. Largely they think the government is doing a decent job, but with no strong feelings on the subject. Personally I think this attitude is completely understandable. The current government is doing a fairly decent job of things overall, and why would you care about politics if you can't affect them in any way?
  • by pythonist (1289628) on Friday June 06, 2008 @02:44PM (#23685425)
    You can register an SSH account in a Unix machine located in China and try GFW by yourself

    http://www.unix-center.net/uc/reg.php [unix-center.net]

    sorry but the page is in Chinese only
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by pythonist (1289628)
      or you can use 'pythonist' account:

      ssh pythonist@x4100.unix-center.net
      passwd: slashdotting

      pls don't change the passwd
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I traveled from Shanghai to Kunming and then north into the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) last year. I was in China for a total of 28 days. I had my Linux-based laptop with me the entire time and never had a problem locating an open wireless access point. Nor did I have any problem using SSH to connect to my boxes back in the states. I use my own SquirrelMail based web mail via SSL, and only once in 28 days did I find myself blocked from that stateside box. Their firewall leaks like a sieve.
    • Having gained my four year college education in University of Science and Tech. of China, I have some experience on GFW. Chinese people's attitude toward GFW reflects gap of old and young generations.

      Almost all young Chinese, me included, think GFW is totally stupid and the people who are in charge of the blocking have pig brains. why?

      1. CNN/BBS/FalunGong/TibetGIE should not be blocked since nobody in China reads them.

      2. Some irrelevant websites such as sourceforge used to be blocked.

      However, most of old pe
  • china is obviously a great power in this world. when you are a great power, you get criticized. with great power, this kind of criticism is a natural occurence

    a true great man can take lots of criticism in stride. an immature powerless man meanwhile freaks out every time someone suggests the slightest negative thing about him. it shows a lack of confidence, an insecurity

    han ultranationists: do you believe that china is a great power? if you do, then start acting as that great power status dictates: have more confidence. china will be criticized more and more every year since it is so powerful now. if you cannot handle that criticism, then you are in danger of destroying your own greatness with your own insecure behavior

    to defeat the creation of insecure people in china, you should foster a healthy amount of internal dissent and self-critical thinking in china. if you do not, if you censor anything that remotely criticizes the chinese government or the chinese nation, then what you do is make the chinese people permanent children. you incubate chinese who are unable to handle criticism without freaking out in insecurity and a lack of confidence

    and thereby diminishing the greatness of china

    china is a great nation. i believe that as an american. so start acting like a great nation, and grow some thicker skin when foreigners criticize china. being criticized is a natural product of being powerful. get used to it. believe me, as an american, i know something about being criticized on the world stage! and mostly, i just shrug it off. you should to
    • definitely well said. cctv's documentary work 'The Rise of Great Powers' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_of_the_Great_Powers) lacks for an episode of this advice.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This site allows you to test whether a page is accessible from Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong.
    http://www.websitepulse.com/help/testtools.china-test.html
  • TFA says that censorship is taking place in the US, with the DoD blocking or restricting access to social networking sites such as MySpace and YouTube that are bandwidth intensive and presented operational risks. This seems perfectly reasonable to me. This is NOT censorship. There are other ways of communicating with friends that take up less bandwidth and are operationally secure, such as email. Plenty of work places filter their internet access to employees, and that is not censorship either. There i
  • Is it just me or does there seem to be an article of or having to do with "China'a Great Firewall" every few weeks?

    I, for some reason, keep thinking that I have seen this article title many, many times before.

    Am I going crazy?

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