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Censorship Government Politics

Outrunning China's Web Cops 207

conq writes "BusinessWeek has an interesting story on an outfit, DIT, that provides people in China access to censored sites. To do this, 'the company distributes software, called FreeGate, which disguises the sites a person visits. In addition, DIT sends out mass e-mails to Chinese Web surfers for clients such as VOA, which is banned in China. The e-mails include a handful of temporary Web addresses that host off-limits content and springboards to other forbidden sites.'"
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Outrunning China's Web Cops

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  • So.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by taskforce ( 866056 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @05:04PM (#14690677) Homepage
    It's not Spam!

    It's FREEDOM MAIL!

    • Re:So.. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CyricZ ( 887944 )
      Indeed, this does bring up a very curious issue amongst those who take a stance against unsolicited email. Is it acceptable to send unsolicited email in the name of "freedom"?

      Of course, many would say that this isn't a case of "spamming", since there is likely a political, rather than a commercial, nature to the emails. But then it can also be said that political issues often revolve directly around commercial and economic issues.

      Regardless, what we will likely see is people take a hypocritical stance to th
      • It is spam, though I would tend to argue that it is of a more forgivable nature than c!al1z spam and such.

        I for one would like to help this guy, but the article is so light on contact information (rightly so in this case) that I'm not quite sure where to start. I like what he's doing.
        -nB
      • Re:So.. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AKAImBatman ( 238306 )
        Is it acceptable to send unsolicited email in the name of "freedom"?

        Just a minor nitpick, the article doesn't say that the emails are "unsolicited". It states that VOA sends out "mass mailings" which is a very different thing. If all mass mailings were spam, then Lockergnome would have been indicted years ago.
        • Mass mailings can be easily abused. Sure, you sign up thinking you'll be getting non-commercial mail regarding a particular subject. That goes on for a while, but soon enough the list administrators realize that they could make a bit of money by letting certain paying business folks push a message through now and then, or perhaps even the system is compromised. Regardless, what could be considered "spam" gets through.

          So while you opted in, that is true, there's no guarantee that you still won't received uns
      • Traditional spam e-mail is all "v1agra" ads and so forth, or it's virus-driven (hell, sometimes both). So arguably the implicit definition of spam is e-mails sent for the interests of the spammer. Here, the intent and surrounding circumstances are quite different; it's a rather selfless act (indeed, instead of financial benefits, here the "spammer" is putting himself at significant risk).

        So yeah, you could say that arguably political issues often revolve around commercial and economic issues . . . but,
      • Indeed, this does bring up a very curious issue amongst those who take a stance against unsolicited email.

        No, it really doesn't. Spam is notoriously hard to stop and filter, and many more experienced and intelligent hands than those the Chinese have available have failed roundly at the task. If someone wants to turn this blight on the internet to a valuable, moral, and direct stand against totalitarian tinpot dictators like those currently ruling China, more power to them, says I.

        And its about goddam

    • Who says it's spam at all??? The article just says they use "spam like tactics" such as changing Vee-Oh-A to Vee-Zero-A to get around automatic censoring programs.

      As far as I can tell, the article doesn't make clear whether the emails being sent out are unsolicited or not. Presumably, an organization like Voice of America would find that plenty of people in China would *want* to be on their mailing list... so that they can get news from something other than the official Communist-Party-approved sources.
    • Re:So.. (Score:2, Funny)

      by cp.tar ( 871488 )
      Freedom Mail?

      Is that yet another American translation of French Mail?

      Although I don't have the foggiest what exactly is French Mail supposed to be...
    • Yep, this is bad. I'd still count it as basic spam.

      More importantly, it's bad for China and the Chinese people. This is kind of like invading Iraq to spread democracy. The problem is, that until people understand and WANT democracy on their own enough to revolt and make it happen, then they're not ready for it. Likewise, it would be better to let Chinese citizens slowly become more aware of what freedom means and what the government is actually keeping from them. When they all really get that, the gove
    • Google announces improved spam filtering for GMail.
  • Hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 10, 2006 @05:09PM (#14690720)
    I wonder how they'll feel when some chinese people end up in jail for using their service.
    • Perhaps they won't give a damn? As long as they get their money, why should they really give a fuck?

      Sure, some will say because they should care about "freedom". But it's human nature to care about profit before all else.

    • They'll say that providing free access to information is still a noble cause, and that these people knew the risks they were getting themselves into.

    • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slashrogue ( 775436 )
      Similar to the same way that people who helped free slaves during the Civil War (of the United States) felt when some of those slaves were caught and punished, I think.
    • People over there are going to end up in jail anyway. The chinese government likes to leave metaphorical bricks under metaphorical hats on the pavement; its the kind fo mentality that will get you anyway. People over there may as well learn something new and valuable while they are kicking that hat.

    • I dont think they will care much as long as they continue to make money and stay out of jail themselves.
  • Very cool (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MoxFulder ( 159829 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @05:10PM (#14690725) Homepage
    This is great news, I think. I've often wondered when someone would start an agressive, concerted effort to bypass the Great Firewall of China. Having a native speaker of Chinese working on this is a big asset.

    Props to Bill Xia and co! Sounds like his company is doing a lot to promote Internet freedom in China, and for all the right reasons.
  • by drspliff ( 652992 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @05:10PM (#14690728)

    While some of these companies offer services aimed towards the people of China and ignoring federal regulation (which combined is generally a good thing), the hammer will be brought down and somebody will have to pay for this!

    What I don't understand is why an alternative 'internet' has been setup yet, using encrypted/disguised routes to the western world in a P2P fashion. If there's one niche in which open-source software can prosper it's going to be here.

    Anyways, the main point I'm getting at here is that the Chinese government will choose somebody or an organization as an example of what will happen to future law-breakers/benders, but it'll still continue..

    • by nihaopaul ( 782885 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @05:35PM (#14690913) Homepage
      why would anyone block http://freebsd.org/ [freebsd.org] ?? china does, why would anyone block sourceforge.net?? china does, why would anyone block news.bbc.co.uk and not cnn.com ?? ask china... so many sites are blocked, i speak of this from inside china.

      and why doesn't slashdot.org provide https:// [https]? so we can post these comments without tor?
      • by 808140 ( 808140 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @08:46PM (#14691953)
        You're an idiot. I can access freebsd.org just fine, and I'm in China.

        Everytime a China-blocks-web-sites related article comes up, some moron gives a list of sites that are supposedly blocked in China. There are definitely blocked sites in China, and it's annoying as all get out, but at least 85% of the sites that Slashbots insist are "blocked in China" are perfectly accessible.

        Please, before shooting your mouth off, do a little research.

        Thanks.
      • Have to agree with the other poster who actually knows what he's talking about. I'm in China and I just loaded FreeBSD and Sourceforge.net with no problem. Perhaps your ISP blocks websites on its own initiative??? That would be wacky.

        That said, every person I talk to knows how to get around the Firewall (although I do talk to tech-savvy people). For most people it's easily the most visible side of government oppression, but it's mostly a matter of inconvenience - you go through a proxy, or you go thro

    • the hammer will be brought down and somebody will have to pay for this!

      No, they won't. The arm of the Chinese government is no longer than the arm of the muslims rioting about the cartoons. At the end of the day, its just another shitpot third world country with a tiny elite trying to keep the rest of the population under control through terror and ignorance.

      • That shitpot thirld world country has a seat on the UN security council and one of the world's eight largest economies.

        China is rapidly becoming the equal of the west in technology and power - though not in quality of life, more's the pity.

        • That shitpot thirld world country has a seat on the UN security council

          So does France - so what? That hardly qualifies as the signature of a world power.

          one of the world's eight largest economies.

          With a miniscule middle class. You should think about what the ramifications of that are. Size, in this case, really doesn't matter.

    • What I don't understand is why an alternative 'internet' has been setup yet, using encrypted/disguised routes to the western world in a P2P fashion. If there's one niche in which open-source software can prosper it's going to be here.

      You don't even need an 'alternative internet' to do this. All you need is an encrypted web proxy or vpn. As long as the traffic is at a reasonable level, no one would notice and no one would be able to tell where you're going.
  • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @05:12PM (#14690740)
    How are users in China supposed to be assured that this isn't just a honeypot-style operation, meant to catch users who wish to access content the government there wishes them not to access?

    Not that I'm suggesting this is the case, by any means, but one would have to be quite trusting (or at least willing to face the consequences of getting caught) to use such a system.

    • by tomjen ( 839882 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @05:49PM (#14691001)
      Life is full of risks and so is trying to access banned items. Yes this might just be a honey pot, Or it might not. If you are truly interested in freedom, you are going to have to make a choice: Surf the web and risk getting arrested, or continue to be a sheep.
      • Well, as long as cowardly profiteers like Yahoo and Google are around, I'd say the risk are pretty damn high. Perhaps when China finally throws off the chains of men who are actually scared of the people they govern, they can have some trials of these companies. I realize that the brave Western corporate types who just love to whore themselves out for a few Chinese $$$ won't show up, but still having Google executives found guilty in abstantia of aiding and abedding a tyranny would be fun.
      • 1. How many people are willing to risk a firing squad for accessing a website? Not a lot, I'd wager. There are no doubt a few people who would, and those people can probably circumvent the firewall quite easily, and the chinese government likely doesn't care. It's an awakening of the masses that they want to prevent, and the threat that this might be a honeypot and clicking that URL could mean the end of your life and family is enough to prevent that.

        2. You seem to be looking at this from the perspective
  • by nate nice ( 672391 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @05:14PM (#14690754) Journal
    This clearly is terrorism and new laws must be enacted to prevent this from happening. The government needs more "tools" to monitor people and help keep them safe. These radicals who's only purpose is to destroy the great Chinese empire need to be rounded up, questioned and put to death. They are "cowards" and don't wear a uniform to a sovereign state. They refuse to work within their countries political systems, thus making them criminals.

    It is imperative China protects its interests, especially against nondescript criminals who could strike at any time from anywhere. China has rights to protect itself and hopefully they deploy troops to the suspected countries of these people if their governments cannot or won't cooperate.

    • Where's a +1 Satire when you need it? (Somehow, +1 Funny does not really apply here).
    • You do see the difference between China and the US, right? I was hoping you were just a troll, but your comment history suggests otherwise.

      A repressive, unelected government has no legitimate authority, so one can hardly fault people for rebelling against the Chinese government.
      • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @05:29PM (#14690866)
        I assume you're an American, and that is why you cannot see the parallels between China and America. Label somebody who points out those similarities a "troll" all you want. That doesn't change the fact that such points are completely correct.

        If you're a frequent reader here, I'm sure you've heard all about the problems associated with the recent elections in the US. While there will always be difficulties with any election, especially when electronic voting machines are used, a republic cannot function when it experiences the severe issues it has during 2000 and 2004 elections. There are many worldwide who question the legitimacy of the last two American regimes.

        Regardless, what we all know today is that neither America nor China stands for freedom. What they do stand united in, however, is perhaps best described as fascism, even if they are self-described as "communist", "republican" or "democratic".

  • by Via_Patrino ( 702161 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @05:17PM (#14690772)
    What those people need is an "Independent Satellite Television" broadcasting all over China. There are no firewalls in the air.

    And for internet some sort of low orbit "Satellite Internet".

    Who wants to pay for all that? :-)
  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @05:21PM (#14690807) Homepage Journal
    Don't ever go to china

    This is one thing which has disuaded me from trying something similar. This is likely to be a serious offense in China and in the future it is actually going to be more difficult to avoid going there for one reason or another.

    I can see several chinese cities becoming transport hubs along the lines of Singapore or LAX before long. You don't want to have to spend the rest of your life avoiding places like that.

    • Of all the reasons not to be a freedom fighter... I'm not sure that's a big one.
    • I can see several chinese cities becoming transport hubs along the lines of Singapore or LAX before long.

      I can see several Chinese cities becoming the equivalent to Calcutta or Manila. Vast, sprawling, third world slums, the crown jewels of their third world nation. The writing is well and truly on the wall for China; Vietnam is now one third cheaper to get workers. And what would you like to bet they have a higher level of Eglish literacy? So its bye bye China. Once the yuan is floated, inflation will

      • Once the yuan is floated, inflation will rise at a massive level...

        Why is a devalued currency unsustainable for a government? The government could print bank notes until the cows come home, printing banknotes (in this case, selling RMB at a fixed level to the USD) could be done indefinitely. Why isn't it done? Because an artificially low exchange rate leads to inflation - banknotes are printed at a rate greater than the actual output of the economy cannot match. China presently has a low inflation r
    • I think Bill Xia already knows he's lost his China privileges. Arranging one's travel plans to avoid hubs you might be arrested in ain't all that big of a deal. And, if you've got a principle to fight for, you might consider it a badge of honor. Plenty of people skate around the US all the time, despite the hassle.

      You comment reminds me of a college classmate back in '79. He figured that the Middle East had the oil, we needed it, so we had to dance to their tune. Jesus, I couldn't believe he was conceding t

  • ...sooner or later the Chinese authorities will come to the realization that internet/computer/information technologies are "hyper-polymorphic" and will forever resist control.

    Then they will likely blow up their internet gateways, leaving more internet room for the rest of us.
  • Nice one.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @05:36PM (#14690920) Journal
    Well done you just failed at it all.

    Heres a hint : If you want to by pass laws and help people, don't scream and shout abut it. The more news you make the easier it is to get heard..

    So nice try, but next time keep it under hat and print off copies of sites and nail them to walls. You'll be harder to catch and spreading the news beyond the few in your group.
    • Heres a hint : If you want to by pass laws and help people, don't scream and shout abut it. The more news you make the easier it is to get heard..

      ...because, the mean faced, souless communist thugs that moniter internal subversive communications surf slashdot for leads in their free time...
    • Loudly proclaiming that you bypass the system is a demonstration against the system. This may look like a way for tech-savvy Chinese to bypass the great firewall, but in reality it's a demonstration against said firewall.
  • they might start arresting people, but they can't arrest them all!!!

    oh wait it's china...

    Gov. Press Relase: General Population? What general population? We never had one, honest.
    NOTHING TO SEE HERE
    MOVE ALONG. NOTHING HAPPEND.
  • with all of these chinese censorship stories appearing on slashdot.org, how long before slashdot.org is blocked in china?

    that's not a call to "play nice" with the autocrats in beijing, that's a call to show everyone else exactly what we are dealing with in today's world. slashdot has been a wonderfully successful site for open disucssion by anyone about anything

    from fundamentalists who threaten death and destruction because of cartoons, to regimes that will jail you for simply saying "democracy should be th
    • The general impression I get is that Slashdot is generally tolerated, appreciated even, in these parts (aka South East Asian cubicles), most sys-admins and bosses are singularly ignorant about the crap-fest that is the comments section. Not too many hardcore /.-tters out here, it seems. (Although must be mentioned here that the National University of Singapore's network, and a prominent ISP in Singapore, StarHub, were both banned here a while back. I'm suspecting a lone bored kid in univ causing havoc.)
  • Yahoo, Google & MS should be fined for providing services that assist governments in censoring basic human rights. Since these companies are based in the US, and the US currently still honors some form of human rights (although maybe not signing the UN resolution), the US government should take action against these companies and in particular the companies that cause the arrest or detainment of an individual or group.

    The only way I see that this censoring activity may be tolerated would be if the com
    • Earlier this week, I read an article in the paper about Iran whining about some cartoon that picked on Muslims. But that wasn't the important part.

      The important part of the article was the large photo of protestors, with their signs, but 5 of them in the front had one in English:

      "OUR RELIGION DOES NOT ALLOW UNCONDITIONAL FREEDOM OF SPEECH. PLEASE RESPECT THAT."

      As Americans, we VALUE the rights that we have. HOWEVER, we must also respect other societies' views, even if they are detrimental to human rights. I
      • HOWEVER, we must also respect other societies' views

        No, we must not. Even leaving aside the fallacy that "government"=="society", there are some views that are flat-out evil. Consider the view that women should be stoned to death for the "crime" of getting raped, for example.
  • by hutchike ( 837402 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @07:22PM (#14691574) Homepage Journal
    I've been offering a free service to China, Cuba and other closed states for many years whereby people can email www@web2mail.com [mailto] including a URL as the subject of the email. My servers will automatically read and reply with the page. For example a subject of "bbcnews.com" would reply with today's BBC News front page.

    The page links in the emailed page are automagically morphed into email links so the user can continue browsing in email-slow-motion.

  • VPN Railroad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bergeron76 ( 176351 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:45PM (#14692230)
    Why not create a VPN Railroad? It worked to get American Slaves to Canada.

    Using strategically placed vpn points, it may be possible to access an "internal" Chinese server that actually has a tunnel to a northern/European internet portal. From there, the world is open...

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