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Censorship Your Rights Online

Opera Closes China Loophole; Reinstates Censorship 272

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the because-they-can dept.
ObsessiveMathsFreak writes "Coming hot on the heels of Microsoft's censoring of Chinese search results, browser-maker Opera has become the latest company to joyfully contribute to prosperous growth of the Great Firewall of China. For speed and convenience, the mobile phone-based 'Opera Mini' browser receives formatted web pages via Opera's own line of proxy servers. These unfiltered proxies gave Opera's Chinese users rare unfettered access to the wider web. However, this loophole has now been closed, with Chinese users now being directed to 'upgrade' to 'Opera Mini China,' which closes this loophole, returning them to the bosom of party censorship, and Opera to the favor of the Chinese Government. Truly; 'To Get Rich Is Glorious.'"
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Opera Closes China Loophole; Reinstates Censorship

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23, 2009 @09:49AM (#30201314)

    Please Upgrade to Slashdot China.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday November 23, 2009 @10:00AM (#30201424) Homepage Journal

      Please Upgrade to Slashdot China.

      No DON'T -- I did, and unfortunately it shattered when I dropped it. I'm sticking to the plastic slashdot from now on.

    • Torn (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WED Fan (911325)

      I'm torn on this. We want freedom. Does that mean we let the companies have freedom to do business with China and follow their rules? Or, should we demand that companies from the "free world" not contribute to the human rights problems of China, and others?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Runaway1956 (1322357) *

        My own opinion is, corporations have no business aiding and abetting censorship. I've thought pretty well of Opera, until now. This is the sort of whoring that helps to give Microsoft THEIR bad name. It irritates me when any of them goes this route. Somewhere in China sits an asshole just like me, except for the color of his skin, and the government is just waiting for him to slip up, giving them a reason to "reeducate" him. The corporate whores are more than happy to sell him out....

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by JWW (79176)

          Yep, I'm reading this story in an Opera browser and wondering if I should switch back to Firefox.....

          • by h4rm0ny (722443)

            Similar. I'll probably keep Opera, but I certainly wont be promoting it to others the way I have been anymore. Shame on them. Maybe I will use something else (going back to Konqueror in my case).
            • Re:Torn (Score:5, Insightful)

              by notrandomly (1242142) on Monday November 23, 2009 @12:20PM (#30202948)
              What do you think would happen if they didn't comply with the demands from the government? A slap on the wrist and "carry on as usual"? That's extremely naive. Rumors have it that Opera employees in China were going to be arrested (or "mysteriously" disappear) if they didn't comply. Maybe you would prefer that?

              And even if pulling completely out of China had been an option, it would have been a bad one. Don't you get it? Fewer services means less and easier work for the government when censoring. The more services, the more difficult for the government to keep track of everything, and the greater the chances of workarounds being open.

              As long as Opera keeps working in China there may be ways to work around the censorship (and there are). Opera pulling out wouldn't help at all!

              It's extremely short-sighted of you to assume that you know best, and that it's fine to sacrifice Opera's employees in China. It's extremely short-sighted not to see the benefit in more services meaning more potential cracks in the firewall.

              Also, will you stop using all Google services, if you actually do stop using Opera?

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by clone53421 (1310749)

                Why the hell did you feel it necessary to repeat a rumour no fewer than eight times to prove your point?

                1 [slashdot.org] 2 [slashdot.org] 3 [slashdot.org] 4 [slashdot.org] 5 [slashdot.org] 6 [slashdot.org] 7 [slashdot.org] 8 [slashdot.org]

                Slow down, cowboy. Even if it’s true, nobody wants to read it over and over.

              • by Surt (22457)

                Well, I already stopped using google services. They can have me back when they outline their concrete plan to end censorship in China. Until then, their just another evil company doing business with an evil regime. Yes, it is a valid strategy to work with the Chinese regime while endeavoring to effect change. But you have to tell me exactly how you're doing that, to prove that you're not just profiting from the party's exploitation of the Chinese people.

                Also, why does Opera need employees in China at al

            • Re:Torn (Score:4, Insightful)

              by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday November 23, 2009 @12:49PM (#30203290) Journal

              All of ye are thinking of it wrong. Instead of thinking 'Opera sucks', think 'Well China was going to ban Opera from their country, which would leave the Chinese left with nothing but Internet Explorer Hell. At least now they can use an alternative. Opera China is still better than virus-friendly Explorer.'

              Well at least that's how I think.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                P.S.

                The summary reads, "For speed and convenience, the mobile phone-based 'Opera Mini' browser receives formatted web pages via Opera's own line of proxy servers." So too does the full-sized Opera 10 browser, but I don't think it goes far enough. The images are compressed but not enough to make any real difference in speed. They should be compressing the text, HTML, and CSS files too. Plus a lot of the images aren't compressed at all, which makes no logical sense to me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by icebraining (1313345)

        How is having no Google at all better than having a censored Google? This is different from profiting from child labor or whatever, imho. Google is useful for the people, and you can be sure China won't stop censoring just because their people can't access Google.

        • Re:Torn (Score:5, Insightful)

          by WED Fan (911325) <akahige@trashmai ... t minus math_god> on Monday November 23, 2009 @11:05AM (#30202124) Homepage Journal

          During the Cold War, the most effective way of breaking through to the people behind the Iron Curtain was to keep our doors open (ahem, CUBA!) and allow them free access to the 'west'. Eventually, it snowballed, fences and walls came down. The so-called "People's Army" turned their guns from the people to the government, in some cases, or were just dropped, and the people tore down the blockades.

        • by Surt (22457)

          No google = grossly less efficient economy = eventual failure of the state = freedom from the party.

          It's exactly what brought down the USSR, but won't happen in China if every western firm chooses to do business there.

      • by Angostura (703910)

        It's the BSD v GPL question all over again.

  • In practice, Opera likely had little choice but to comply with local laws, and make a new version for Chinese users that cannot access all the "filtered" sites, same as any other Web browser.

    They had no choice. So, the Chinese government would prevent them from doing business in China which is giving it away for free? I've never seen Opera specific advertising when I use Opera. So, I don't get it. Exactly what would Opera lose if they weren't in China?

    • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Monday November 23, 2009 @10:05AM (#30201460) Journal

      Opera does a lot more business than just ads in a browser. They get income from Google to include them as default search engine and additional income for every ad click made by Opera user. Their other sources of income also include mobile phones clients (manufacturers and telco's might pay them to include their browser), Wii, other media equipment. For example lots of hotel's seem to be using Opera as embedded browser for their systems and to give visitor ability to browse internet from TV (this isn't always shown everywhere, but I was visiting a hotel once and the hotel tv rebooted and showed Opera logo on startup).

      And considering China has 1.5 billion people, it would be quite stupid to ignore that market area.

      • Surely sometimes it is not quite stupid to, but instead one has to, ignore a certain market area? An extreme example being gas-chamber manufacturers and Nazi Germany?

        Them Nazis. Always so helpul when trying to drive our points home.
      • Samsung recently decided (wisely) to switch to Opera in all their handsets, including smart phones. Imagine what would Chinese Govt. do to handsets including Opera browser in device ROM. That would send Samsung from Number 2 mobile maker to "others" immediately. I guess shareholders would send Samsung CEO to enjoy some Tibet hippie living with Opera CEO in no time.

  • ...happens to whatever is filtered through Opera proxy. Stats, passwords, preferences, online purchases, banking - this all goes through the Opera proxies and is wide open to employees. Although a small slice of the WWW market, Opera gets an insight into much larger piece of online activities of its users than, say, Google does - it has "phone home and report everything, ever" built in as its fundamental design decision.

    • by Ilgaz (86384) on Monday November 23, 2009 @10:13AM (#30201542) Homepage

      Basically, it is not possible. There is private/public key encryption built in, that is why browser (shell in fact) asks you to press random keys or "move mouse" (in touchscreen) when first installed.

      If you want to set up a conspiracy theory, don't look anywhere other than some popular search engines who bowed to China.

      • by SharpFang (651121)

        Alice wants to send postcard to Bob. So she puts it in sealed envelope, mails it to Carl and asks Carl to open the envelope, put a stamp on the postcard and mail it to Bob. Yeah, there is no way in hell Carl can learn what is written on the postcard, after all it has been closed in a sealed envelope only Alice and Carl can open...

        Opera proxy acts like man-in-the-middle attack by design, that is its fundamental function, with consent and awareness of both parties whose communication is intercepted. It modifi

        • Yeah, there is no way in hell Carl can learn what is written on the postcard, after all it has been closed in a sealed envelope only Alice and Carl can open...

          Because it’s written in a code that only Alice and Bob have the key to, obviously.

    • by sopssa (1498795) *

      This is only true if you are actually using those services. There's Opera Turbo in the main browser, that compresses the data between their proxy and your browser. Obviously theres no much need to use it on faster connection than lets say gprs. and HTTPS sites will still go without the proxy. Google had a very similar service [wikipedia.org] btw.

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      From what I remember, only http goes through the proxy, https obviously wouldn't be able to be compressed since they can't read it.
      • by SharpFang (651121)

        Can then the untransformed https pages display their content?

        On top of that, there is nothing to stop the proxy from acting as man-in-the-middle, after all it does have all the keys and certs.

      • Good encryption simultaneously compresses the data, because the encrypted result is designed to contain maximum entropy so that it’s indistinguishable from random data. In theory, anyway.

        You can compress things that you can’t read, no problem (well, you can read it, but you can’t decipher it). What you can’t compress is incompressible data. It would be useless to try to compress https traffic.

        • by Ksevio (865461)
          But the way Opera compresses stuff is to compress images and reduce the markup to fit in the mobile browser, so it really needs to see the information.
        • Good encryption simultaneously compresses the data, because the encrypted result is designed to contain maximum entropy so that it’s indistinguishable from random data. In theory, anyway.

          Not true. Both encryption and compression increase entropy, but neither implies the other. An encrypted message will be the same length as the plaintext, but with more entropy. With a perfectly encrypted message, it is impossible to guess the next bit from the preceding ones. With a perfectly compressed message, it is also impossible to guess the next bit from the preceding ones. In the case of encryption, it is because each bit value has been permuted in some way. The only perfect kind of encryption

    • The fundamental design decision was a browser that could run on just about any phone. It just so happens that the only way to do this is with a thin client where the browser engine resides on the server.

      You are worried about Opera? What about your bank? Your doctor? Your ISP? A lot of organizations and companies have wide open access to your data.

  • by germansausage (682057) on Monday November 23, 2009 @09:56AM (#30201378)
    "returning them to the buxom of party censorship"

    buxom ??? What word do you think they were aiming for?
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      returning them to the buxom of party censorship

      [X] In inverted-boobies China, citizens welcome buxom party overlords.
      [X] In buxom China, who cares if party censors YOU?
      [X] Confucius say: Buxoms just like Chinese food - hour later, you want see buxoms again.
      [X] Headline should read: Opera and China kiss and make up - buxom buddies - searches now return 50% more boobies so citizens no longer complain about being deprived of foreign culture.
      [X] "buxom of party censorship" - pics or it didn't happen!

    • They were aiming for exactly the word they used. It was incorrect because it’s an adjective, not a noun.

      buxom
      Function: adjective
      1 obsolete a : obedient, tractable b : offering little resistance : flexible <wing silently the buxom air — John Milton>
      2 archaic : full of gaiety
      3 : vigorously or healthily plump; specifically : full-bosomed

  • by skgrey (1412883) on Monday November 23, 2009 @09:57AM (#30201382)
    I can imagine that there's citizens of China that have unfettered access to the internet; there are plenty of companies out there that host software VPN's that allow a user to appear to be from a different country. The information is out there, you just have to know how to get it, although there is some risk. Hell, a business could probably make a good amount of money hosting terminal or Citrix servers just for FireFox usage for China users.

    I'm sure there's a fairly large risk involved, and the punishments are probably severe. But where there's a will, there's a way, especially in technology.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday November 23, 2009 @10:12AM (#30201524) Journal
      This is true; but less useful than it sounds.

      Sometimes, censorship(especially of the more or less extreme "news blackouts and gunmen occupying the radio stations" flavor, or Iran's SMS being down for service at a convenient time) is in fact about stopping the flow of information among motivated people. This is very hard to do perfectly; but can often be done well enough to dampen some particular event.

      Day to day, though, censorship is less about dissuading the truly motivated(though, if it can make them easy to detect and harass, that is a plus) and more about preventing the casual from becoming motivated. In most cases, people aren't just born motivated, they become motivated based on experiences or information. If you can control the information available to casual browsers, you can substantially modify the risk of having to deal with motivated adversaries later.

      Every time the Great Firewall comes up, somebody always mentions one or more of its numerous technical weaknesses. Those are largely beside the point. If the system is good enough to ensure that casual users receive only a steady stream of ideologically comfortable information, the system will ensure that it never faces more than a limited number of sophisticated and adversarial users.
      • by amplt1337 (707922)

        If the system is good enough to ensure that casual users receive only a steady stream of ideologically comfortable information, the system will ensure that it never faces more than a limited number of sophisticated and adversarial users.

        Cf. the United States.

  • Can we see this? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by east coast (590680) on Monday November 23, 2009 @09:59AM (#30201398)
    Can other people use their proxy to see what they can't see? I'd really like to see, first hand, what it's like to browse through their proxy. I just wonder what sites I visit normally that aren't available.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday November 23, 2009 @10:01AM (#30201426)
    welcomes our new Chinese overlords
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eldavojohn (898314) *
      "Opera for one?" Please, there is no shortage. The summary already lists Microsoft ... and then there's Google [slashdot.org] and Yahoo! [slashdot.org] and Flickr [slashdot.org] and a whole lot of other global companies interested in partaking in sales to over 1/6th of the world's population. And, if we can believe this study [slashdot.org] the Chinese people by and large welcome their censorship overlords! It's not going anywhere, all we can do is aid and abet the poor 15% that want less biased information. The only services not kowtowing are those unintereste [slashdot.org]
  • Meh, no choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RiotingPacifist (1228016) on Monday November 23, 2009 @10:03AM (#30201440)

    Option 1: Refuse then, get blocked meaning you make no money and china gets no uncensored news
    Option A:Comply keep making money and china gets no uncensored news.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      If one IT company refuses to cooperate, it makes no difference. If most of the IT companies refuse to cooperate, the IT capability drops dramatically, and science, engineering, medicine and economy begin to suffer. That might just make a difference.

  • by Fantom42 (174630) on Monday November 23, 2009 @10:07AM (#30201478)

    It is unfortunate that companies in this situation are caving to the requests of a government that has different ideals about the freedom of information than we do, but honestly, do you expect anything different? These companies aren't in the business of battling China on their political ideology. They are out to sell a web browser and maximize the NPV of the company. This is what a business and a free market is all about. To do anything different would be a strategic move that while it could be argued might benefit Chinese citizens, it is much less likely to benefit Opera. Furthermore, if they did fight China on this one, I think it would be naive to think that they did it for any other reason that as a calculated risk to gain marketshare and ultimately profit. So don't act surprised when stuff like this happens. The sooner people realize what businesses are and aren't, the sooner they will understand the forces shaping the world in which we live.

    • by jockeys (753885)
      very well said, indeed. thank you.
    • Furthermore, if they did fight China on this one, I think it would be naive to think that they did it for any other reason that as a calculated risk to gain marketshare and ultimately profit.

      The rumors that all their employees in China were going to be arrested if they didn't comply may just shine a different light on the whole thing...

  • by gapagos (1264716) on Monday November 23, 2009 @10:07AM (#30201486)

    It strikes me how often I hear supposedly pro-market "patriotic" Americans like Lou Dobbs being shocked that:
      - GOOGLE cooperates with China.
      - MICROSOFT cooperates with China.
      - MYSPACE coorporates with China.
    And so on. What did you expect? Corporations are not here to defend American interests. Thy are there to defend THEIR interests, and THEIR interests lies in conquering a market of 1.2 billion people. That is a huge market. 320 million americans is dipshit compared to 1,200 million. Ok, I exagerate, as per-capita GDP is much higher in the U.S., but you know where I'm getting at.

    If we want to send a message to China, we should ask our diplomats and politicians to do it. NOT expect freakin' corporation to do it for us. They have no reason to care, and it's prefectly understandable. Anybody who thinks otherwise has clearly been brainwashed by the "free market capitalism perfection Kool-Aid".

  • Remember: (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Monday November 23, 2009 @10:12AM (#30201526) Journal
    Capitalism will bring democracy to China!

    I love the Chinese people - very fine people, respect for education, pretty girls, good solid folks. But their government is crap, and has been crap for 100 years, and the current collection of power mad bullies running the joint are a bunch of asshats who deserve all the punishment and torture they meet out upon their rivals and those who seek to exercise their basic human rights as outlined in the UN Charter.

    To the people of China: Welcome to the 21st century. We're glad you made it.

    To the Chinese Government: FUCK YOU. YOU SCUM SUCKING FREAKS.

    RS

  • Boycott Opera!#!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thetagger (1057066) on Monday November 23, 2009 @10:20AM (#30201622)

    ... or not. I mean, restricting some content on the web isn't nearly as bad as invading other countries, killing its civilians by the hundreds of thousands and setting up puppet governments, and yet nobody here is calling for boycotts against American companies that support all of this (which is all of them, or at least those that pay taxes).

    • by JStegmaier (1051176) on Monday November 23, 2009 @10:49AM (#30201940)

      at least those that pay taxes

      So what you're saying is Microsoft isn't the bad guy for once?

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      America out of Europe?

      Let me know when you figure out how to deal with the most unstable region of the world will you? Then you can tell me how you're going to deal with the 4th most unstable region of the world. The third most unstable has actually been quiet for last few years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      ... or not. I mean, restricting some content on the web isn't nearly as bad as invading other countries, killing its civilians by the hundreds of thousands and setting up puppet governments, and yet nobody here is calling for boycotts against American companies that support all of this (which is all of them, or at least those that pay taxes).

      Huh!?

      There are indeed reasons to boycott many American corporations and the USA has indeed committed crimes against other nations, but despite their best efforts they'r

  • the mind is like a muscle: work it out, challenge it with ideas hostile to your own, and you only wind up with a stronger mind and stronger ideas

    i understand that the technocrats think they are protecting the chinese citizen from foreign interference and degenerate thoughts, but for whatever perceived good is being done by a policy of censorship, the much larger real negative effect is to turn chinese citizens into cotton heads full of nothing but empty thoughts, placid lies. the truth is always ugly and disharmonious. that's what makes placid lies so much more attractive

    for a mind where the serene lie is more valuable than the rude truth, inward thinking reigns. this is the same inward thinking, away from the wider world, building a wall against the outside world, literal and figurative, that led to the rot of the old chinese dynasties, and left china weak and ripe for exploit by foreign powers. the shame of this history drives so much of modern chinese infuriated pride: never again will china be defiled by foreign powers. the literal and figurative rapes of japanese imperialism, the british opium wars to force heroin on its citizens: this led to china's rebellions and eventual modernization

    however, in the policies of the technocrats of beijing today, we see the same seeds of the same thinking of the old brittle bureaucratic mandarins that led to china's previous downfall. sheep are very harmonious, docile, placid creatures. they're also dumb. dear china: why do you choose placid lies over ugly truths? the harmonious still pool is beautiful, but weak. the raging river is ugly and dirty, but strong

    the chinese government are turning their citizens into housepets. this is not a strong nation, this is a weak one, populated by simpletons who could have been strong minds, but the chinese govermnet made sure they were empty weak minds, by censoring anything that would challenge the dominant monoculture. yes, legions of robots can turn out lots of cheap goods, but you would think that you would like a china full of strong and wise chinese, not slaves. and yet the chinese government clearly values their citizens only as slaves, unable to think on their own, with censorship policies that mean chinese minds are never exercised

    the chinese government does not respect its own citizens. the chinese government's censorship policies is recreating the conditions that led to china's historical rot, and the chinese government's policies will mean china will be weak again, and dominated and exploited again

    that is why, in the name of respecting the chinese people, i do not respect the legitimacy of the chinese government. the chinese government does not respect its own people. the chinese government has an agenda which serves only its own flawed priorities, and do not serve its people

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by moz25 (262020)

      I agree with most of your points, but I can't agree that censorship causes the Chinese population to be simpletons. One need look only at the average person in free societies to conclude that Simpletoniaism survives quite well even with unfettered access to information and education.

      • stupidity is the default condition. always was, always will be. the majority of a populace of any country, in any time period, past, present, and future, is dumb. no government policy you could ever devise will ever change this truth

        your problem is that you have taken my point and inverted it: that somehow if what i say is true about china, then the liberal uncensored west must breeds geniuses. no, this is completely false and an act of deducing the most insane thing from my point about chinese government p

  • Turn the proxies over to another authority or company like a European ISP and make Opera Mini customizable to go back to using proxies like those.
  • joyfully contribute to prosperous growth of the Great Firewall of China

    -1 Troll

    Opera to the favor of the Chinese Government

    Yes, I'm sure the alternatives were "do this" or "you don't have to do this if you don't want to", rather than "do this" or "myseriously disappear from the face of the earth". But who cares about Opera's employees in China anyway, right?

  • You can Godwin me if you like, but don't forget there were a great number of companies that did business with Nazi Germany in the years leading up to WWII. A fascist dictatorship that allows some business to flourish will always find capital from free nations. But by its very nature, the capital will never help remove the dictatorship.

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