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Censorship The Internet Your Rights Online

Chinese Social Websites Go Under "Maintenance" 84

Posted by timothy
from the culture-of-repression dept.
Shastri writes "After blocking several prominent social websites like Twitter, Youtube ahead of Tiananmen anniversary, by the great firewall of China, some popular social sites in China have also gone under 'maintenance'. While it is anybody's guess as to whether these events are related or purely coincidental, the announced maintenance come mostly unscheduled and last for several days might give a hint. A spreadsheet (in Chinese) is being maintained enumerating the sites that have gone down for a maintenance."
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Chinese Social Websites Go Under "Maintenance"

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  • Obviously... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by el3mentary (1349033) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @06:24PM (#28202593)

    They don't want any organised protests.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by arogier (1250960) *
      Facebook groups lead to action?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Facebook is good for organising a rickroll, but probably not ideal for revolution.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by linzeal (197905)
        Last saturday in South Carolina a facebook group organized a 200 person strong group of teenagers to go out attack a store clerk and pull out and beat up a family in a car.
        • interesting - source?
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          Last saturday in South Carolina a facebook group organized a 200 person strong group of teenagers to go out attack a store clerk and pull out and beat up a family in a car.

          Really? Tragic, horrible, an abomination. Surely a 200 person mob attacking innocent victims must have made the news by Sunday, which would be the 31st. I know that a +2 Interesting mod means it MUST be true, but let's check....

          Google news tells me the only stories for the 30th and 31st containing "South", "Carolina" and "clerk" are:
          * Adult Books for High School Students
          * Symposium celebrates SC women through the ages
          * Waiting on death row: In 7 brutal cases, killers deserve sentences ...
          * Incompetenc

    • by Jurily (900488)

      They don't want any organised protests.

      They just want to install their own plugin to the databases.

    • Do Chinese civilians have the right to peaceful protest?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by anarche (1525323)
        AFAIK Chinese civilians do not have any rights.

        Right to peaceful protest: No.
        Right to choice of political persuation: No.
        Right to choice of religion: No.
        Right to have children: No.
        • by Kaiwen (123401)
          +3 Informative? Puh-LEASE!

          Right to peaceful protest: There are hundreds of peaceful protests a year throughout China, ranging in size from single individuals up to groups of hundreds. While I'm no legal expert, it seems to me the relevant differences between Chinese and, say, US laws governing peaceful assembly are that the Chinese government can be a bit more nebulous in denying permits, and that protests espousing illegal activities or undermining social harmony are not tolerated. Now, one might (and p

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @06:28PM (#28202657)

    After blocking several prominent social websites like Twitter

    Thank you!

    Freedom is so overrated.

    • by melikamp (631205) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @08:45PM (#28204263) Homepage Journal

      Babelfish + http://bbs.linyueru.com/ [linyueru.com]

      You have no right to carry on the current operation, because this possible below one of reasons to create

      The great Great Wall starts to assume an awe-inspiring pose, closes the forum to lie low until something blows over temporarily.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MMC Monster (602931)

      To quote Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose".

      While China is economically prosperous, I wonder how many people in China are doing better now than they were 10 years ago. If the majority aren't doing better, they are in serious trouble. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon enough.

      • While China is economically prosperous

        I wouldn't call it "economically properous". I would call it "in recovery [blogspot.com]".

        Why is there always some hidden assumption that China must be economically prosperous? The downside of an economy of heavily dependent on exports is when the rest of the world's economy melts down, your buyers suddenly disappear.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, from 1958-61, an estimated 20-40 million people starved to death. Those events are still firmly in many people's memories. So while "prosperous" might not be the best word to describe most people, anybody middle aged or older has seen some fairly large improvements, materially, in their lives, and generally feel that the younger generation has an even brighter future.

        • by microbox (704317)
          Didn't the communists have a part to play in causing the famine? As part of a war effort? One chinese communist supporter at the time lost heart in the revolution, describing her government as a bunch of armed thugs.

          There is a social contract between the government and the people that the government will return increasing prosperity to the people. The present growth of China /must/ end, because of the laws of nature (economists be damned). When that happens, will we see a loosening of government censors
      • by Kaiwen (123401)
        I don't have figures for ten years ago, but since the institution of economic reforms in 1978, by most estimates some 54 percent of the Chinese population has been lifted out of poverty (64% in 1978 vs. 10% in 2004). In fact, recent World Bank revised estimates (http://eapblog.worldbank.org/content/new-ppps-reveal-china-has-had-more-poverty-reduction-than-we-thought [worldbank.org]) push the '78 poverty rate up to 69%. making the reduction even greater. According to this Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pove [wikipedia.org]
  • Solidarity? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DeadDecoy (877617) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @06:28PM (#28202661)
    Interesting. At first, in reading the summary, I thought this was the governments attempt to censor various sites. However, the article seems to imply that this is some passive aggressive form at protesting the censorship by major social websites. It's kinda like having an enemy go on a hunger strike to protest killing his people. It sounds interesting, in the current environment, it'll probably have the same effect as online petitions.
  • by aaandre (526056) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @06:30PM (#28202685)

    ...when governments realize that the truth of what they are actually doing will shock, disgust, appall their people.

    IMHO free flowing information is what ultimately caused taking down the Berlin wall.

    Now, that we know that our governments torture, steal, abuse their power, serve the money-printing oligarchy instead of serving us, what are we going to do?

    I guess... http://www.flickr.com/photos/andreinla/235687297/ [flickr.com]

    and

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/andreinla/3135176066/ [flickr.com]

    • by Alt_Cognito (462081) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @08:27PM (#28204111)

      Actually, going bankrupt is what brought the wall down.

    • by Celeste R (1002377) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @09:12PM (#28204471)

      Generally, people don't mind so much if it's only an idea 'out there', instead of a concrete idea that they're dealing with.

      Now, that we know that our governments torture, steal, abuse their power, serve the money-printing oligarchy instead of serving us, what are we going to do?

      It's historically only been the observant people who protest, and oddly enough, they're also the first people who are silenced. Consider extortion, fear of material security, censorship, etc.

      As an observant person also, I see people pulling strings. A chinese proverb comes to mind (paraphrased): when the government becomes corrupt or unstable, go to the mountains. It makes sense when you think about it, because the insular safety and security of a remote location is an ideal thing for a family lineage.

      Granted, the possibility of us doing so is much smaller, because we (as an intellectual group of people) tend to stick to the population centers. However, we can move. We -can- move out of the nation to find political stability. We -can- have a hand not in fighting a system going downhill, but in building a system going uphill.

  • Maintenance of... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    the Communist state and political ideology. Noone could seriously think that the Communist party would not use any available tool to keep power.

  • Xiaonei censorship (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dracil (732975) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @06:42PM (#28202875)

    So I was hoping to announce this to my Chinese friends, but looks like on Xiaonei, you're not allowed to write http://www.danwei.org/net_nanny_follies/chinese_websites_under_mainten.php [danwei.org], äå½ç½'ç(TM)çæS, tiananmen, or the link to the spreadsheet. If you do, it gives you the following error: "èäè¦å'åfæ"æææYå...å®ãèæf...å...å®ãåäsåå'Sæ-å...ä-äæå½"å...å®" (no politically sensitive stuff, porn, or ads, etc.)

    • by Dracil (732975)
      Urk, looks like I can't get Chinese characters onto Slashdot. The first word says "Chinese Internet Maintenance Day" from the article, while I basically said what the second one said.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yea, good luck getting Chinese characters to work. Apparently they are still using iso-8859-1 encoding, uggh.

      • "Chinese Internet Maintenance Day"???

        Man, they celebrate weird holidays, don't they?

        Seriously, though, that would make a good passive-aggressive protest t-shirt (a la Free Tibet).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Just tried it too, same error. "Please don't post anything related to politics, etc....."

      Also, Xiaonei is definitely experiencing other problems- many of my friends have reported problems with the "sharing" feature, and most also know the reason why sample response: "Oh, that's because its today, didn't you know?"

      So, I think most Chinese know, or they can guess the reason why.

      I'd try posting a few other things as experiments on XIaonei and Tudou, but I'd rather not risk getting my visa revoked, thanks.

      • by Dracil (732975)
        So May 35 also gets blocked. Interestingly enough, 06041989 did get past the censors on Xiaonei.
  • ....make sure you use scare quotes. That's the only way to "communicate" a trivial "fact" can call it "news".
  • by Tycho (11893) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @07:39PM (#28203653)

    At a certain point, does shutting down various websites and muzzling the press have the opposite effect than intended? Will anger over shutdown websites have those not in the know to ask what happened on this day, and is this something worth clamping down on by the government? In other words does a government working too hard to suppress knowledge and direct opinions go too far and have the opposite effect and cause unfavorable results? Also, there are many Chinese factory workers that make all sorts of nice, legitimate products that they can't afford because they would need three months of their wages to buy it. Wouldn't it make you a bit angry, especially if you worked 60 hours a week, with few other benefits?

    Additionally, mainstream historians are currently of the opinion that what ended communist governments in Eastern Europe had little to do with Ronald Reagan's bluster. Instead, the current theory roughly goes that instead the citizens just got tired of the government became discontented, and found less overt ways to protest or rebel and eventually the unrest and general lack of popular support caused the government to collapse. Sorry, Reagan is God fans and libertarians, but large scale armed resistance or large scale protests will probably not happen in China and the final result will not be a libertarian paradise.

  • This may not be a bad thing. Every June 4th we mount an all out vigil for the Tienanmen Square massacre. We add it to our website, add it to every message and email we send out on that day. Maybe the "middle class" Chinese, the ones most likely to make a difference, the ones with the education and financial resources to access the web and interact with the rest of the world will notice something amiss within their "harmonious" society when every June 4th their Internet goes blank.
    • by megaditto (982598) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @02:59AM (#28206315)

      Your mistake here is thinking that these "middle class" Chinese people are not aware of Tiananmen/June 04. Indeed they all know about it, and are still supportive of the government's action. These people are voluntarily chosing to supress dissent and bring down their own blogs to support their government. They are being "patriotic" and that is the attitude, which you have to work to change.

      The whole thing is kind of similar to the Iraq War issue over here. My liberal friends think that none of the war supporters are aware of the "Missing WMDs" and related issues. They brandish these as some kind of a trump card, thinking that the moment they mention "missing WMD," any supporter will change their mind. Of course that never actually happens as the other side sees these facts as no big deal. We all agree on the facts, it's just that we disagree on their meaning and context. (Another example: Clinton blowjob/impeachment. We all got the same facts, yet there is a wide disagreement about their significance.)

      Or consider forced abortions in China. While injecting formaldehyde into a fetus is highly objectionable to most people in the West, a typical Chinese person will find it a "regrettable" yet appropriate means for population control. They would tell you that the parents were to blame for an unauthorized conception, and the abortion was needed to maintain peace, prosperity, equality, whatever. You need to help the Chinese place knowledge into its proper context, not simply "add it to every message."

      • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @06:37AM (#28207239)

        Your mistake here is thinking that these "middle class" Chinese people are not aware of Tiananmen/June 04. Indeed they all know about it, and are still supportive of the government's action.

        A lot of the people who know about it only know a sanitised version of events ("a bunch of students tried to incite a violent dangerous and unjust revolution and the army valiantly stopped their attempt to damage society" or some such), not the whole truth. Many will guess that there was more to it, many will know there is (through information sources not controlled by the government), but many more will not or will not let themselves be interested enough to enquire in case such an enquiry gets them marked as a troublesome individual.

      • Regardless of whether the "middle class" Chinese don't know, or don't know the details, or simply don't care is debatable. There really is nothing we can do about people's mentality. However, like I've mentioned before, if the Chinese government wants to indiscriminately censor all material related to the Tienanmen Square massacre, we use China's own censors to sent Chinese people a message.

        Sure you can argue what kind of message will a blank screen send, probably not much but at least it will serve a

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @08:41PM (#28204239)

    This "maintenance' was done by the webmasters themselves. When you look at the spreadsheet most websites are not that popular and created by hobbyists. Furthermore they stated that they participated voluntarily. Some of the messages are really interesting:

    thequietsnow.com:
    Due to a reason we all know this site is presently under maintenannce.
    The site will be under non-technical maintenance from 3. Juin to 6. Juin
    [...]
    For a harmonious environment, to make an appeal to create a harmonious sociaty, I advice all webmasters and internet users to do the following during maintenance period;
    1. Go out for a walk, get some fresh air, due to the hot weather, please wear a white t-shirt
    2. Since the current internet is extremely unharmonious, in order to create a healty and harmonious internet environment, please put all your websites into "maintenance state", in oder to provide a better net environment
    3. If you don't want to put your site into "maintenance state", please change your site into black and white colors, in oder to provide a better net environment
    4. Please put your site onto the maintenance spreedsheat.

    whenn.net:
    Long live the harmony~~~
    Due to a reason we all know
    In order to supress my extremely unharmonious thoughts
    this blog voluntarily will go under "technical and non-technical maintenance"

    passcd.com
    Just says "20" on the page

    So really, this "maintenance day" is a good sign. It makes a lot of net users aware of the event, since a lot of young Chinese haven't been confronted with this event a lot. This hopefully makes them to think more...

    On xiaonei, many statuses get blocked, too, with the warning not to post "politically sensitive" content. Being in Tsinghua as an international student, I've seen Chinese students testing and changing their statuses with messages like "Democracy, Freedom, CCP, ..." It was shortly after midnight that Xiaonei.com even crashed for a while due to the massive status changes. But it seems to me the young generation sees this testing more as a game and really doesn't grasp the seriousness.

    What really striked me was that one status saying "In memory of 8^2 5!/3! years" got deleted on xiaonei... (You math and comp sci nerds can figure the hidden message out ;) )

    Another thing I've noted is how pointless it is to talk with Chinese about their politics. They are extremely sensitive and immediately get defensive. A hong kong girl was talking about this event with a mainland student and she became very agitated. The chinese guy was absolutely overwhelmed by the critics, didn't know how to react (he was the only chinese in a group of international students) and immediately started to defend the government's action, saying things like sometimes politics has to use violence to achieve it's goal... (basically implying that they did the right thing)

    Anyway, I just hope that, untill China finally faces this event correctly, people in other countries will do all their efforts not to let it become forgotten.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by steelfood (895457)

      It's the 20th anniversary of a certain event. I had expected something fairly flashy to originate from the online communities. You can think of this a moment of silence, if you'd like.

    • Did you tell him "welcome to Guantanamo"? While the Chinese have historically been awful about quelling even polite and peaceful protest, they're hardly the only ones to use violence against untried, possibly innocent people for political reasons.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Only on slashdot does chinese censorship remind you of just how evil the USA is.

    • Another thing I've noted is how pointless it is to talk with Chinese about their politics. They are extremely sensitive and immediately get defensive. A hong kong girl was talking about this event with a mainland student and she became very agitated. The chinese guy was absolutely overwhelmed by the critics, didn't know how to react (he was the only chinese in a group of international students) and immediately started to defend the government's action, saying things like sometimes politics has to use violence to achieve it's goal... (basically implying that they did the right thing)

      Did this happen in China? If yes, did you consider the possibility that he simply didn't consider it safe to say what he really thought?

    • by lilyneao (1574051)
      I'm the webmaster of "the quietsnow.com".This is a "interesting" activity for some of webmasters.
  • Purely Coincidental. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vampire_baozi (1270720) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @08:46PM (#28204269)

    Not.

    Chinese internet users aren't stupid, they know what is going on. In many cases, all it does is call attention to the anniversary, perhaps more than would have been paid otherwise.

    In any case, most Chinese I know seem fairly cynical about it. A translated conversation from Xiaonei, in response to a blog post by a friend about the economic crisis:

    AAA: Well written!! But why can't I share it? (think Facebook sharing, posting a link to it on your own homepage)
    BBB: Yeah, I can't share it either. Must be because it's today!
    000(the author): Well, I can post it, you guys should be able to share it....
    CCC: (a few comments about the actual content of the article)
    DDD: I guess Xiaonei is having problems recently. Anything with numbers seems to run into problems.
    AAA: Anything with certain numbers runs into problems around this time of year....
    EEE: I'm sure this maintenance is perfectly normal, as it is for all other Chinese websites right now.(sarcasm)
    BBB: There is no spoon~~! (this in English)
    FFF: Wow, nice word choice guys.
    Bad translation, there was a good pun or two in there I couldn't figure out how to translate. In any case, they're masters at not using any words censors would find suspicious. But they're all at least aware of it, even if its a minor annoyance.

    And it will probably remain just that: A minor annoyance for most, perhaps making them remember, but they don't care that much. The ones that really want to protest will just use text messages or IM anyway, and even they hardcore democracy types know where the line is drawn. For the most part, it seems really unnecessary. If they really wanted to organize protests, they'd have been organized long before the 3 days before the anniversary, and then use texting or cells or IM to expand. I doubt there will be any protests to speak of anyway- the Chinese sort of have a silent agreement here, they know where to draw the line.

  • or they could just copy the Slashdot way and put the messages in HTTP respond headers.
  • Parallels to the US (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @11:22PM (#28205379) Homepage

    Amazingly, there remain people, who would argue, that the US is either "the same" or "not much better", and deny, that China's human rights record is particularly bad.

    I mean, just imagine, the US government shutting down Twitter [marketingvox.com] or any Leftist web-site at around, say, Iraq-invasion anniversary...

    • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @11:40PM (#28205477)
      Unfortunately, I can imagine it, although not as a federal political action. Take a good look at what happened to Cult Awareness Network for a stunning example of political censorship.
      • by mi (197448)

        Take a good look at what happened to Cult Awareness Network for a stunning example of political censorship.

        Which aspect of Cult Awareness Network [wikipedia.org]'s history do you consider "a stunning example of political censorship"? I skimmed the article briefly, but could not find anything particularly outrageous in what happened to them...

        • The Scientologists hated Cult Awareness Network with good reason: CAN had good documentation and support to help families with people who'd been sucked into it, and put them in contact with former members who could explain how things really worked. The Scientologists filed literally hundreds of lawsuits to drive CAN into bankruptcy and destroy them, eventually succeed with a lawsuit where the plaintiff (not a scientologist) was represented by a Scientology senior lawyer and former leading member of the Gua
          • by mi (197448)

            The Scientologists hated Cult Awareness Network with good reason [...]

            So, you seriously consider law-suits brought against a private entity by another private entity to be comparable to government shutting down web-sites to minimize anti-government protests?!..

            • Absolutely. It was done as an illegal campaign to silence speech. Their scale and means were as awful as any federal censorship of which I'm aware. The purpose of such lawsuits is not necessarily to win, but to silence opposition.
    • by oreaq (817314)

      Some might argue that the real atrocity is the beating and killing of peaceful, unarmed students. Or the raping, beating and killing of some random prisoners in some foreign country that one has no business to be in in the first place.

      But you're right. When it comes to the important stuff like using Twitter and watching Britney's twat then the good old U.S.A. is still way ahead of the communist bastards from China.

      • by mi (197448)

        Some might argue that the real atrocity is the beating and killing of peaceful, unarmed students. [...]

        Changing the topic, eh?..

        When it comes to the important stuff like using Twitter and watching Britney's twat [...] U.S.A. is still way ahead of the communist bastards from China.

        Twitter is used by anti-government protesters and yet the government does not attempt to close it, not even during the spikes of protests (such as around Iraq-invasion date). Chinese web-sites, which might be used to organize a pro

        • by oreaq (817314)

          Changing the topic, eh?

          No. "China's human rights record" and how it compares to US' was what you were talking about, remember? I just provided some more data points.

          Twitter is used by anti-government protesters and yet the government does not attempt to close it, not even during the spikes of protests.

          Maybe the difference is that the Chinese government is still afraid of their people. Or that swiftboating when done well can be just as effective and is the preferred method in the "free" world.

          And just for the record: I of course do not think that America is in anyway as bad as China. I just have the feeling that the situation is constantly getting worse. Same goes f

  • This is why [wikipedia.org]

    In short, a massacre followed by a cover-up of the events.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A bit like the cameras in london go "down for maintenance" whenever there is a protest. the maintenance even follows protests from street to street - amazing!!!

    • Clearly the protesters are emitting some sort of electromagnetic interference, probably from some sort of terrorist super-weapon, and must be detained. Problem solved!
  • Tieneman Square was also just maintenance...
  • I'll tell you what's actually coincidental (though it was inevitable): this is the China Anniversary [chiff.com] of the massacre.

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