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Censorship Your Rights Online

China Starts Censoring Phone Calls Mid Sentence 366

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-that's-not-good dept.
bhagwad writes "Several reports have emerged that China is cutting off phone calls mid-sentence when contentious words like 'protest' are used. Seems like China's draconian censorship regime is going into overdrive with even more sophisticated censoring. Of course, this comes on the heels of Google accusing them of mucking around with Gmail as well."
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China Starts Censoring Phone Calls Mid Sentence

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:43PM (#35576926)

    The New York Times publishes an article about China's great firewall, and puts it behind a firewall.

    [The rest of this post is censored, to make it truly meta]

    • by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      HBO publishes it's programming schedule, then it puts the programs behind a firewall, what is up with that?

      Censoring phone calls while they are underway is not the same as a pay wall.

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Neither is *eavesdropping* on said phone calls for the purpose of determining whether or not to censor.

        Oddly enough, arbitrary cutoffs aren't the scariest implication in this.

    • hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rainmouse (1784278) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @03:23PM (#35577616)
      A little anecdotal rumouring, a news story does not make. It might as well be talking about werewolves and fairies for all the evidence it provides. I'm not saying it's not true, but if your phone is cut off every time you say the word 'protest' then it's not exactly going to be difficult to reproduce and actually prove.

      Though you might want to get used to the sound of knocking on your door if you carry out extensive trials.....
    • First, that's not ironic at all.

      Second, the article is about censoring phone calls mid sentence, so to truly CmdrTaco is a right and just leader and editor of Slashdot, and he knows what is best for us all. Slashcode is stable and strong. I am glad we had this talk or comment thread.

  • by jdgeorge (18767) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:46PM (#35576990)

    ... dropping calls in mid-sentence is simply known as "using AT&T wireless service". Zing!

    • by Tackhead (54550)

      ... dropping calls in mid-sentence is simply known as "using AT&T wireless service". Zing!

      Remember our morning shortage of Ts [slashdot.org] on /.? People have had to replace 'em with plus signs. Wireless is a poor fix, because even someone using an old modem on a landline operated by A+++
      NO CARRIER

    • I have AT&T, and it's kind of suspicious that every time I say Veriz
    • by skuzzlebutt (177224) <jdb AT jeremydbrooks DOT com> on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:47PM (#35579608) Homepage

      They failed to mention that the code word for protest in Chinese is now "Candlejack". It stands to reason tha

  • by mysidia (191772) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:48PM (#35577026)

    etslay tartsay ay rotestpay

  • A group of minds working together (like a government) should be far more capable than a single mind by itself, but this seems to indicate that the opposite may be true for sufficiently large groups of minds.

    I assume that as much as we hear about the "great firewall of China" and the censorship they have there, the average Chinese citizen probably doesn't run up against it very much. Something like this seems so abrupt and obviously intrusive that the general populace must surely take notice. I wonder how

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      Bad thing is that the next step up from having the conversation ended is having a knock on the door with the special black van pull up, with the next of kin being notified they owe the Chinese government the cash for the lethal injection chemicals before they get the body back (sans usable organs for transplants, of course.)

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Lethal injection ruins those organs.

    • by tvsjr (242190)

      As a side note, I'd hate to live under this regime, but I'd have a blast playing with this system if I had access to it. What Sesame Street quotes would set off the filter, etc.

      Right up until you were "detained" indefinitely (at what I'm sure would be a first-class Chinese prison) for "suspicious activity".

    • "I'd be willing to bet that only phones that are already under surveillance for "subversive behavior" (activists, journalists, etc.) are subject to this technology. If not, I'd seriously question the wisdom of the government."

      Gotta agree with that one, with only 10,000,000 English speakers in the country; .77%, why would you bother to censor English unless you were interested in censoring that particular group.

      I can't help but wonder what the official line on this is. "Government places restrictions on acti

      • by corbettw (214229)

        Another report on a separate incident said the conversation that was cut off was being done in Chinese, so it's not just the English speakers that are being targeted.

        • Saw that, but the fact that they are even bothering to censor English seems to raise a flag that there is a very specific paranoia of outside influence.

          I can't help but wonder how much of that is justifiable. You always hear of some shady think-tank or puppet "activist" who is obviously just spewing pro-Chinese propaganda or even the occasional intrusion and when I hear something like this, I can't help but wonder how much the US is doing over there.

    • by bokane (36382)

      The Great Firewall of China is not that much of an issue for most Chinese internet users because (a) they're not, mostly, looking for sensitive political material online; (b) most people don't speak English, so overseas sites are automatically less attractive, and (c) there are native Chinese equivalents -- okay, clones -- of blocked foreign sites. Facebook is blocked, but there's still Renren and Xiaonei. Twitter is blocked, but there's Sina Weibo - which is in many respects a better product. Youtube is bl

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      A group of minds working together (like a government) should be far more capable than a single mind by itself

      Because everybody knows that the best horses are designed by committee.

    • As much as I hate to quote a Will Smith comedy about aliens:

      "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals."

      Or, to quote a better source:

      "The IQ of a mob is the IQ of its dumbest member divided by the number of mobsters."

      Sometimes governments and corporations are little more than large, organized mobs,

    • Re:Foolish? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bieber (998013) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @03:32PM (#35577796)
      From what I've read, the Chinese people generally support their country's censorship, and honestly believe in the importance of the state protecting them from "immoral" things and so on. You would be amazed what people will rationalize when they've grown up with it. For instance, I have a friend who I met in high school who lived in the UAE for most of her life, where the Internet is censored, the government enforces harsh religious law, and the law gives special preference to natives in many areas. She was pretty much like a normal teenager in every respect, mostly liberal, but her reaction to things like Internet censorship by the government was pretty much "meh." She was once casually explaining to me how native Emirati were, for instance, allowed to tint their car windows darker than immigrants, and sincerely didn't care at all about such rules, even though they worked against her (she's Egyptian).

      When an injustice is introduced to you as child, it doesn't seem to you like an injustice, it just seems like business as usual. After all, it's not like there aren't significant injustices right here in the US that most of us just ignore while going about our lives...
      • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @04:16PM (#35578454)

        From what I've read, the Chinese people generally support their country's censorship

        Yes, effective censorship assures that what you read from the people subject to it is consistent with the viewpoint the censoring entity wishes to hace expressed, while contrary messages are suppressed.That's the whole point of censorship.

  • Aybemay issidentsday couldcay eakspay in igpay atinlay?

  • Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sgage (109086) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:53PM (#35577100)

    90% of our stuff here in the US is from China. It's cheap. That's all that matters. Mass censorship, brutal putdowns of dissent, etc. - none of that matters. Real Konsumerism Politik, don't cha know.

    There will be no riots, a la Tunisia. Well, maybe for about 5 minutes. Who cares? As long as we get our cheap stuff from China.

    • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @03:11PM (#35577430) Homepage

      Typical ignorant American viewpoint. Here's an idea: why don't you try asking some, you know, actual Chinese people if they want to overthrow their government? The New York Times article linked carefully avoids asking this question, as you'll notice. The article's all about prissy Beijing expats having a hissy fit because they can't get to facebook and twitter any more because their VPNs were blocked. The answer is assumed as the Chinese people want to overthrow their government. It's called "reciting the narrative", and it's a common way that journalists get to make shit up.

      Surprise! Chinese people don't want to overthrow their government. *cough* (awkward silence) Things are better now in China than they ever have been in history. Things are only getting better every day. The worst thing that could happen is an attempt to overthrow the government. Nobody knows China's last 150 years of history, which was basically one disaster after another. The nation was divided and without a common language, and Mao united the people under one flag, stopped the wars of province against province, and gave the people the gift of a common language that could unite their diverse cultures.

      But no, the only reason that China should keep its government has zippo to do with Chinese, and everything to do with America. Because whatever it is, all over the world, it always comes back to how America thinks. The navel-gazing makes me sick. So fucking parochial and ignorant of outside. +5 Insightful, eh, Slashdot?

      • You can't see it, but DNS-and-BIND is blinking in morse code as he writes that.
      • But no, the only reason that China should keep its government has zippo to do with Chinese, and everything to do with America. Because whatever it is, all over the world, it always comes back to how America thinks. The navel-gazing makes me sick. So fucking parochial and ignorant of outside. +5 Insightful, eh, Slashdot?

        Knowing what you know about both countries, China and the USA, which country do you want to live in for the next 50 years?

      • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chowderbags (847952) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @04:35PM (#35578770)

        Nobody knows China's last 150 years of history, which was basically one disaster after another. The nation was divided and without a common language, and Mao united the people under one flag, stopped the wars of province against province, and gave the people the gift of a common language that could unite their diverse cultures.

        And then promptly enacted economic reforms that caused tens of millions of deaths! [wikipedia.org] Besides, it's not like some cultures want to not be part of China (*cough* Tibet. *cough* Uyghurs.).

    • by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      No, its not 90% from China.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_largest_trading_partners_of_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

      Less than 25% of US imports from from China, and China is the third largest importer of US goods.

    • by vivin (671928)

      China is still in the year 1984. The censoring of the word "freedom" is very telling. It perfectly sums up what the Communist Party in China is all about; suppressing individual liberty. They are the boot stamping on a human face. I hope China is able to move out from under the shadow of Big Brother in the coming decades

  • by MooseTick (895855) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:54PM (#35577114) Homepage

    How hard is it to use different code words. If I were the govt listening on my people, I'd rather listen to them in full without trying to hide it. That seems easier to know who to track and beat down. If you drive the protestors underground, then it makes it harder to tell who is behind the rebellion and quash teh organizers. Lots of people talk, few can organize. Silence the organizers and you are 99% there.

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      Depends... if you make people realize that retribution is swift and certain, they are not going to attempt another organized protest chain on a wide scale. Of course, there will be the firebrand or two, but after those are dealt with in a public manner, there won't be many who will step up to the plate.

      Harsh regimes do keep control, and keep control for a long time, and China's is definitely not going anywhere.

    • PRC government has 50 cent party [wikimedia.org] members, and lots and lots of them.

  • Talk about chilling, you don't even get a notice on your door the next morning; this means someone is listening realtime.

    Do they have to start talking in dynamic codes?

    "Yes, I have a nice farm. The grass I planted in the mud is doing just fine. Maybe I will get a horse."

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:57PM (#35577170)

    Our modern western cellphones are way ahead of this. They're able to drop communication mid sentence WITHOUT the need for a certain keyword.

  • I had a dream where the government was doing this the night before last. (But they took it a step further, using speech synthesis to replace censored phrases with less objectionable phrases.)

    Isn't it great when your dreams become reality?

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      "Isn't it great when your dreams become reality?"

      Did you actually write "I hope my nightmares don't become reality?"

      Censorware 1.0 is not irony capable yet.

  • by bwayne314 (1854406) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:58PM (#35577190)
    Chinese grad student sitting next to me: "That happened 5 years ago, this is not news, this is the job my friend has, writing this software, that is what the supercomputer is for"
    • So you aren't worried that the Chinese government will look at your post, determine who you are, discover the Chinese grad students you work with and put them all onto a list of subversives? Man... with friends like you...
      • by 517714 (762276)
        A Chinese grad student is sitting next to you, ask yourself this question before "accidentally" ratting him out, "Is this class graded on a curve?"
  • My Hobby (Score:2, Funny)

    Sometimes I randomly announce to empty rooms "I know you're listening...". It only has pros: if I'm wrong, nobody knows, but me; if I'm right, I just freaked someone out real bad.

  • by bokane (36382) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @03:07PM (#35577364) Homepage Journal

    I'm not so sure about the reports of people's phones cutting out. There's definitely been a radical increase in filtering and censorship here over the past month, but I'm pretty sure I've said "protest" multiple times in both English and Chinese on my (Beijing Mobile) phone without having anything happen. Speech recognition just isn't that good, unless the technology has gotten a lot better in secret -- particularly for dealing with a language like Mandarin, which is much richer in homophones than English is, and also has plenty of regional accents that would be even harder for computers to deal with.

    That's not to say it's impossible -- I have no reason to believe the NYT is lying, though their China journalism is not always good -- but if it's happening, my guess is that it's limited to a small number of people whose phones are being monitored by human beings.

  • IvaVay EvelutionRay.

    • by slshwtw (1903272)
      01101111 01110010 00100000 01101010 01110101 01110011 01110100 00100000 01110011 01110000 01100101 01100001 01101011 00100000 01101001 01101110 00100000 01100010 01101001 01101110 01100001 01110010 01111001
  • When my wife was in Shanghai, I used to always talk to her either with Skype or a VoIP calling card from the US. In both instances, our conversation would disconnect when any one of us spoke in long sentences. Some days were better than others. But, mainly because the broadband infrastructure is poorly maintained and over-subscribed.

    Given the quakes that hit Japan, I can only imagine the effects on broadband being even more accentuated.

  • Is it possible to speak Chinese in pig Latin?
  • So you can conveniently hang up the phone just by ending your conversation "protest, protest"!

  • I'm pretty sure cutting the calls short isn't the ONLY thing they're doing if they're listening to the conversation closely enough to decide to cut it off in the first place.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:10PM (#35579182)

    I was talking to my mother from Beijing over Skype and mentioned that I went to the Mao mausoleum, and said to her that the Communist party likes to keep Mao around to bolster their image.

    It seems like those keywords must have triggered something because right after that, the call became inaudible. I tried calling her back, but it was the same.

    I then called her cell phone (a different number) which was fine until we restarted that topic. Then the same thing happened.

    Finally I had to call my dad and asked him to tell her I couldn't call back.

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