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Books Censorship Handhelds Social Networks The Internet Wireless Networking

Kindle Allowing Chinese Unfettered Access To Web 138

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-for-long dept.
jcl-xen0n writes "Apparently, some Chinese Kindle owners have discovered that they are able to access banned sites such as Twitter and Facebook without a problem. The article speculates that Amazon may be operating a local equivalent to Amazon Whispernet with a Chinese 3G provider. Professor Lawrence Yeung Kwan, of the University of Hong Kong's electrical and electronic engineering department, told the paper that mainland internet patrols might have overlooked the gadget (perhaps because they consider it solely a tool to purchase books). How long before Kindle traffic is locked down?"
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Kindle Allowing Chinese Unfettered Access To Web

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  • by javelinco (652113) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:03AM (#34097946) Journal
    I'd guess it won't be long. Is there any reason that people needed to publish this information? Is this stuff that people "must know" - to the point where it's worth getting it shut down? This seems pretty dumb to me.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:09AM (#34097986)

      The Chinese government isn't too web savy. They've quoted The Onion in the past as a news source. They probably think Slashdot has typing tutorials.

      • by santax (1541065)
        Do you have sources/proof of that? I would love to know :)
      • The fact that they aren't familiar with English language satire doesn't say much about their web savvy. I'm sure their comprehension of Chinese language websites is good enough to pick up on this news..

        • by easyTree (1042254)

          I guess that by the standards of openness and freedom set by the Chinese government, The Kindle looks relatively open and free from restriction. I guess there had to be something which fit that criterion :D

      • Never mistake an employee doing the old copy-and-paste with incompetence. In addition, Chinese have difficulty understanding sarcasm as a cultural issue. Go ahead and laugh at their lack of "savy" (sic) though. I'm sure the racism would be approved.
      • Do you really think there's nobody reading the web in China? Think twice. Few DAYS after the news about Opera Mini having the same "issue" being posted on slashdot, its proxy has been blocked, and Opera had to make a new version taking the Great Firewall of China into account. Would you mind giving your source that proves the government is that stupid, as is asking the person just right next to my post?
      • The Chinese government isn't too web savy.

        What planet are you living on? The Chinese government understands the web, its power and potential, better than any other entity in the world. They also understand how to control it.

        Whatever fubs the PR department engage in, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is Orwellian in its efficiency, and you can expect this hole to be plugged by the end of the week at the latest.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by contra_mundi (1362297)
      Wait. So we would should censor ourselves about how they could get around their censorship?

      I think the room is spinning.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by nloop (665733)

      Tor still exists, Slashdot didn't ruin the interwebs in China. Keep posting on stories you don't understand.

      • by causality (777677) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @01:33AM (#34098298)

        Tor still exists, Slashdot didn't ruin the interwebs in China. Keep posting on stories you don't understand.

        I'm not so sure how secure Tor would be against a state government large and powerful enough to monitor large portions of the Internet at once. Its real-time nature leaves it open to timing attacks among other things like compromised (primarily exit) nodes.

        • Tor is simply blocked if you don't have a specific entry node. So it's not really working well...
        • by RichiH (749257)

          Tor generates fake throw-away traffic fro exactly this reason. As long as you only look at text, you should be fine. Especially if you use 5 layers or more.

    • Y'know, I pointed this out in one of the last secret things that got discussed, and my karma went straight through the floor.
    • Though your point makes sense, I'm fairly sure Slashdot is banned in China. It will take a little longer for them to catch this as people resubmit the information elsewhere.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Neil Boekend (1854906)
        I have a feeling the people who decide what will be banned in china will only decide what is banned for OTHER Chinese people. They will have all the "Free Tibet" sites available for themselves.
      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        Facebook, most of wikipedia, and select parts of certain high profile news sites are the ones that get blocked. Slashdot, (at least when I was there) is certainly not consequential enough to bother blocking. FYI.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You, and quite a few other people, seem to think that only /. is publicizing this. Exactly how often does /. post exclusives or act in any way other than as a news aggregation website?

      Also, imagine if only 50 people knew about this. It spread slowly through word of mouth and *eventually* the government shuts it down after, I dunno, 50,000 people learn about it and use it for 3-4 months. They complain, but what can they do? Other than go to jail for dissension.

      Now, how about if it's published everywhere and

      • If you're scheduling an event, you want as many people as you want with you. You don't try to hide it and show up with 20 people. You scream it from the rooftops and end up with a million.

        Or you have unions, Opera, and the Huffington Post bus people in...

      • by 1u3hr (530656)
        Now, how about if it's published everywhere and a million people find out about it at once?

        A million Chinese have Kindles? Anyway, if Chinese people want to circumvent the Great Firewall, there are plenty of ways they can do so using various proxies and normal PCs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Homburg (213427)

      The report linked to here is based on an article in the South China Morning Post - I think it's a fair bet that if a Hong Kong newspaper knows, the Chinese government also knows.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      This is definitely one of those situations where reporting is irresponsible. It is a certainty that the Kindle users in China will suffer or Amazon.com will suffer or both by putting this news out in this way.

      It would have been better to collect the facts about the story and wait until the actual or eventual closing of that hole before reporting on it. There would still be a story and it wouldn't be a direct contributor to the problem which this story is actually about. I think whoever put that out shoul

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by xnpu (963139)

        Some holes aren't to be closed. Foreign simcards roaming to an uncensored Internet is not a new thing. Neither are VPN services. With the exception of some politically funded organizations who offered these services for free, these routes have _never_ been blocked. (I've been using them in China since 1997.)

        The idea of censorship is not to restrict information from everybody. It's to prevent the masses from rebelling against the government. Those are two very different objectives.

        The government wants to pre

    • by kenh (9056)

      Agreed - too many times reporters confuse "the public has a right to know" with "look at me! I'm such a good reporter I found out something no one else knew!"

      I imagine unfettered access will be gone as early as the end of the week - anyone want to bet that a Chinese embassy worker or their children here in the US won't notice this story?

      This will be past-tense ASAP!

  • duh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lopton (990061) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:05AM (#34097958)
    so lets blow their chance at accessing the internet freely by advertising it on every site known to man
    • so lets blow their chance at accessing the internet freely by advertising it on every site known to man

      You too are in a way advertising it. (And me.) (And the next guy) ...

  • Not long (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gregg Alan (8487) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:06AM (#34097974)

    It's almost too bad this information has been released. On the plus side there could be many people that could grab some information, now that it's public, before it gets blocked. On the other hand, if they don't already know about this workaround they might not ever find out since the normal access to the internet is censored.

    Giving myself a headache I am!

    • Re:Not long (Score:5, Insightful)

      by causality (777677) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @01:37AM (#34098312)

      It's almost too bad this information has been released. On the plus side there could be many people that could grab some information, now that it's public, before it gets blocked. On the other hand, if they don't already know about this workaround they might not ever find out since the normal access to the internet is censored.

      Censorship is the least of their problems. Information that is blocked because it is censored can also have attempts to access it logged. That's more than feasible with such a powerful state. Then those who attempt to access it can be located, interrogated, "re-educated", "disappeared", etc. A message stating "this has been blocked" or an artificial error accessing a perfectly functional site is pretty damned tame by comparison to what could happen.

    • Slashdot isn't censored ... yet. The censorship is still a black list, and not a white list, luckily.
  • China has discovered that some kindle-owners had accessed forbidden sites. They have kindlied been dealt with. China is safe once again.
  • How long before Kindle traffic is locked down?

    Well that depends on how much popular Slashdot is among Chinese officials, but not very long I suppose. Maybe a new saying will get popularized there: They were slashdotted before they could enjoy their freedom

  • No time at all (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gbrandt (113294) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:15AM (#34098012)

    Now that you mentioned it here, it probably won't take long at all.

    • by Cylix (55374) *

      It's not like anyone at amazon reads slashdot.....

  • Not long at all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:19AM (#34098038)
    It will happen like this:

    Chinese Government: If you want to do business in our country, you need to prevent people from accessing certain websites on their Kindles
    Amazon: Oh, yes, that is already a feature, we just have not used it yet. Are there any books that we should delete from Kindles in China?
  • i find it hilarious that slashdot documents all these major breaches of the firewall, and subsequent "ha ha china has a stupid oppressive government, praise capitalism" type comments, but is not blocked by the firewall itself.
    • Will USA soon have a Great Firewall of its own?

      http://demandprogress.org/blacklist/ [demandprogress.org]
      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by EdIII (1114411)

        Will USA soon have a Great Firewall of its own?

        http://demandprogress.org/blacklist/ [demandprogress.org]

        It already does. It's called the DMCA. Why firewall something, which requires enormous support and resources amongst the ISPs, when you can leverage bullshit copyright laws and corrupt, vile, organizations like the RIAA and simply delude the companies hosting objectionable content without due process?

        Censorship exists now.

    • My understanding is that China doesn't care about English language websites. For example, only Chinese language search results are censored by Google.

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        Isn't that . . . odd? I mean, don't virtually all of their schools teach English at some level?

        Seems like a big hole in their censorship plan.

        • It could be a nationalistic type thing. They look down on westerners and don't take non-chinese content seriously.

        • by xnpu (963139)

          Yes a lot of schools teach some English, but aside from the middle-to-upper class youth in the big cities, nobody will actually use it. When was the last time you Googled in French to find out what the french media write about your own country? It's just not something you do that quickly. And if you did, how far did 2 years of french class really get you when it comes to reading political articles?

          Chinese material simply spreads much, much faster and hence gets most of the censors attention.

          • by MBGMorden (803437)

            When was the last time you Googled in French to find out what the french media write about your own country?

            Never. That said, you can bet that if I knew that the English results of my searches were being heavily censored yet the French versions were not, I WOULD be doing a lot of communication in French.

      • I regret to say that your understanding is wrong. China blocks a lot more than only content in Chinese.

        By the way, the current situation is that when you do some "politically incorrect" queries on Google, you got flagged to have the full of Google HK blocked all together. Otherwise, you can search whatever you want, since Google HK isn't blocked at all (until you search for the wrong things). No need to tell here what's wrong to search, you guys all know and it has been discussed many times.
        • Am I wrong about English language Google searches not being blocked in China? I didn't mean to say that they don't block any English language content, just that it isn't a high priority and much of it does remain unfiltered.

          • by poity (465672)

            Search google (.cn .hk or otherwise) through a Chinese ISP and you will get server timeouts with forbidden phrases like "tiananmen 4.6". If you keep doing it the entire domain is blocked for you for 10 to 15 minutes. Confirmed it myself in July of this year.

    • The purpose of China's Golden Shield (what you are incorrectly calling a firewall) is not to keep Chinese people in. It is to keep foreigners OUT. Just wait for the first big net-war. China will shut the world off and go on its merry way. Its citizens will be able to conduct banking, buy from taobao, email each other, etc. Export business will be affected, true, but that is becoming less and less important as China develops its internal markets. The golden days of exporting are over, finished, done.
      • by xnpu (963139)

        LOL. Tiny detail though: it's American Cisco staff in the US of A which still does all the maintenance. I know first hand they have full access, including to the block lists, filters, etc.

        • by mrogers (85392)
          Please consider uploading some information about Cisco's involvement to WikiLeaks (or any other site that you trust to preserve your anonymity).

          Pressuring American companies to end their involvement in internet censorship would be more effective in the long term than a 40ft shipping container full of Kindles, and would help to undermine some of the "USA good, China evil" hypocrisy surrounding this issue.

      • The broad point is a valid one, that a large part of the purpose of the great firewall is keeping the rest-of-world from being able to see what's going on IN china, blocking their citizens uploading pictures to sites like twitpic prevents the rest-of-world from seeing mobile phone photos of things that make the chinese gov't look bad, for example

  • by QuantumBeep (748940) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:48AM (#34098158)

    ...So don't make a bloody article about it, ya bastards!

  • It's a catch 22. How else are people going to learn about it if nobody talks about it and if people talk about it it's gonna get yanked. Wow. I read that sentence and realized how depressingly accurately it describes truth in American politics.
  • I for one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by saleenS281 (859657) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:57AM (#34098194) Homepage
    am glad this professor was so kind as to point out this loophole to the communist rulers. Had he not mentioned the *loophole*, it may have been months, years, or even DECADES before communications of the unfiltered kind could've been shutdown with the outside world!
  • "How long before Kindle traffic is locked down?" Naturally, reporting it really helped the Chinese people. Fair and balanced. Alive but in a prison camp.
  • "How long before Kindle traffic is locked down?"

    Done.

  • Works for Droid too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kefler (938387) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @01:40AM (#34098320)
    Was just in China last week. Own a CDMA Droid 1, which was on international roaming (1x speed). I noticed I could access facebook, so I tried a few other things. Long story short, I was able to access the wikipedia article on Tienamen square while IN tienamen square. Well, briefly then I put the phone away and got out of sight.
    • by xnpu (963139) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @02:41AM (#34098488)

      Like I said in my other post. Anyone using any device with a non-Chinese simcard has full Internet access.

      You don't have to put your phone out of sight - it's fully legal as long as you do not share your device or the content retrieved with a Chinese national.

      • Does this imply that there are two levels of internet access in China -- full access for those rich enough to afford high-tech gadgets, but severely restricted access for the poor?

  • Slashdot... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    YOU! Are a BLAAAAAABBERMOUTH! A Blab-ber-mouuuth! You - BLABBERMOUTH!!1!
  • This was meant to be, as with the advent and the use of better technology and gadgets the security or the arrangements needs to be beefed up to have some good benefits or stop them from accessing the sites banned in China for the people there. The technology has been moving ahead at such a rate that by the time the people get accustomed and used to one the new one on the block might have already been waiting for them. designer girls shoes [alexandalexa.com]
  • by xnpu (963139) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @02:22AM (#34098424)

    This has nothing to do with the kindle and everything with foreign simcards.

    Foreign simcards have always been able to access the uncensored Internet in China, simply due to how roaming works. (Likewise a Chinese simcard in a western country will still find the Internet in it's censored form.) European pre-paid simcards have been traded in China for years now.

    Of course an article about a 'belgian simcard' isn't nearly as internesting as the Kindle or i-Anything, but this is non-news nontheless.

  • by plasticsquirrel (637166) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @02:30AM (#34098452)
    Anyone who cares about free access to the Internet has some method around the Great Firewall. VPN services are even advertised quite freely in China for foreigners over there (maybe because the officials can't read them). Anyways, despite what many westerners would expect, the Chinese themselves often support the government's general ability to block access to websites. Much like in America, these things are framed as actions taken for the good of the nation, and just like the Americans, the majority will accept that. I had a discussion about this when I was in China, and I was the only one who disagreed with the firewall. Nobody really seemed to miss anything, and they asked me which sites are blocked. I rattled off a few like YouTube and Blogger, but they hadn't heard of them. For video sites, they use Youku and Tudou. For blogs and the like, QQ's services are popular. Perhaps the only exception to any of this is that some younger people like to get around the firewall so they can use Facebook as well (FB is blocked in China), but the Chinese have their own social networking site that is more popular there (RenRen). China is a whole different animal.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I made the same experience while living in China. Most people don't care about not being able to read about Tienanmen or Falungong or what ever. They DO get pissed if things get blocked they like like Youtube or Facebook, but generally "it's good for the nation to protect Chinese from biased western influence".

      Fun fact: I'm from Germany and nobody ever complained here not being able to google for right-wing websites like Stormfront*, etc and many people do support the upcoming child-porn firewall which is n

      • by mSparks43 (757109)

        I wonder how much of this was a concern for your motives in questioning them, Chinese outside of China certainly have a problem with words they post on blogs being changed as they post them. I'd guess its very similar inside, but the desire to express their plans for a new revolution to people they haven't really met before will be somewhat less.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tsj5j (1159013)

      For people who find the Chinese people accepting censorship hard to imagine, just picture the numerous Americans who still think the Patriot Act exists to protect them.

      America's on it's "Road to China", albeit in the name of terrorism, copyright and "protecting the children".

    • So that raises another question, maybe the reasons for blocking are protectionist rather than censorist? They don't mind the idea of "Facebook" but want their own running instead (because its Chinese, but also because it's probably easier to control). Maybe some of both.

  • The government and internal security forces of the Peoples' Republic of China wish to thank all of you for your help. Much appreciated.

  • I don't know... how long would it take to write new filter rules and reconfigure a few handfuls of firewalls? Probably about the same time it took to post this article!!!!

  • > How long before Kindle traffic is locked down?

    Thanks to OP, not long. I really don't see the need to publicise underground information like this given they know it will lead to it being shutdown. OP is basically daring the Chinese authorities to do just that. And so I award him the Jeff Young Award for Stupidity on Slashdot.

    Yes; Demonstrating Stupidity ahead of his time, jryoung@gmail.com posted this story telling all any sundry where you could get free textbooks on the net. Within days of his post
  • This should have remained an unknown unknown by the world and the Chinese authorities. Now it's become a known known for them. Or something like that. My head hurts. Good bye, free access through Kindle. We barely knew ye.
  • What this says to me is that Amazon is routing/tunneling the traffic from the web browser on the Kindle through their servers. If the browser on the Kindle (WiFi/3G) were to access banned sites directly, they'd be hitting the Chinese content firewall.

    Chip H.

    • by amaiman (103647)
      All Kindle browser traffic does go through an Amazon proxy and always has. Going to whatismyip.com from my Kindle returned 8.18.145.128 which is an Amazon proxy server (as opposed to the Sprint address I would get if I went to the same address using a Sprint Overdrive which uses the same 3G network). They do this for a number of reasons, including giving them the ability to control how much data the Kindle devices can consume (they can block content types and sites; for example, you cannot download PDF fi
  • I returned to Shanghai from the US and Tokyo recently and was shocked to discover that not only did the 3G China networks bypass the great firewall, but the kindle 3G access fired up easily in all three countries with absolutely no cost to me! . . . FREE 3G . . . Worldwide . . . as far as I can tell. The kindle has already paid for itself. w00t!

  • A huge problem with the Kindle in China is that it does not handle Unicode. There are no Unicode fonts on the device. And all of the font hacks have been disabled with the latest software.

    So, as long as they are reading in English the Kindle is fine. Non-English? Well, that language they speak in the UK is probably OK. Italian probably works mostly. Maybe French. But Cyrillic is a no-go. As is Japanese and Chinese.

    Web pages aren't going to display very well that way in China.

  • The organized crime outfit that currently rules China does so because its people lack the political power that comes from the barrel of a gun.

  • There's probably a proxy for Amazon G3 services in other countries too. Amazon can therefore watch what you do on the web with a kindle, and censor/edit/inject ads if they want to as well.

Swap read error. You lose your mind.

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