Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Censorship The Internet News Your Rights Online

A Detailed Dive Into China's Information Underground 65

eldavojohn writes "MIT's Tech Review has an article on the current state of Internet censorship in China. We've read the stories about Green Dam and the Great Firewall, but this article relates the story of one of the many ways around these tools and how they're little more than an added complexity to getting what you want from the Internet in China. The article starts out with an aliased user named Xiaomi who wakes up and utilizes Google Docs to collaborate with other Mandarin-English speakers so they can translate the day's news. Once it's there she makes it public and sends out a note on Twitter and Buzz to her followers, who copy the document to their blogs and link back to the public Google Document. The blogs survive for various lengths of time, but while they are up more people read and publish to their blogs, and the pyramid branches out." (Read more, below.)
The article explains the complicated chain of tools she employs to avoid being invited down to a police station to "drink tea" (interrogation and imprisonment). Although anonymous and unrewarded, Xiaomi's work is crucial to China. An MIT expert on China claims, "The Internet has empowered the Chinese people more than the combined effects of 30 years of [economic] growth, urbanization, exports, and investments by foreign firms." By the time all is said and done, Chinese censorship is little more than mocked by thousands of people like Xiaomi. The cofounder of Global Voices explains, "We assume censored means 'Dead. Lifeless. Artificial.' What 'censored' actually means is 'really, really complicated.'" Despite our dire view of Chinese censorship, the article presents comprehensive evidence of people not only avoiding it altogether but successfully anonymously working together to avoid it, as well as protests going viral on the Internet in China. On the Internet, where there's a will there's a way.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A Detailed Dive Into China's Information Underground

Comments Filter:
  • Cause and Effect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jeng ( 926980 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:34PM (#31846388)

    Could the reason that China has so many cyber-criminals be a side-effect of the Great Firewall of China?

  • Re:Cause and Effect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:50PM (#31846570)
    I doubt it. The great firewall isn't something most "normal" netizens notice. Almost all the Chinese I know (been living here for 2 years) *only* access sites internal to China, so the great firewall doesn't even come into play (other forms of censorship such as government regulations over blogs and site ownership, self-censorship by sites, etc are evident).

    If I had to pinpoint a cause for all the crackers and pirates in China, I'd ascribe it to the general culture of lawlessness here. It's a culture that in many ways reminds me of wild west stories: for all the "big brother" scariness of the Chinese government, they honestly don't have a very strict control over the population in many ways. Examples: thousands of illegal golf courses that the government is unaware of (or which the local government is secretly sponsoring); food supply chain issues such as cancer-causing recycling of restaurant oil (called "swill oil") that the government seems unable to crack down on meaningfully, tainted milk, etc; secret gun factories that every once in a while are busted; people having a complete disregard for littering or traffic laws... This is a government that is unable or in some cases unwilling to crack down on many illegal and harmful practices.
  • Re:Numbers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:52PM (#31846594) Journal

    "By the time all is said and done, Chinese censorship is little more than mocked by thousands of people like Xiaomi" Now, let's put that number, "thousands", into perspective: China has a population of about 1.3 billion.

    And 384 million of which are Internet users--nearly a quarter of the world total. The 'thousands' I was referring to are the people like Xiaomi who translate the content. Then thousands for each of those people post to their blogs. Then some undetermined chain goes into effect where they keep reposting and sending. It's immeasurable but this is just on the producing end of it. There's obviously a demand for this material so you can be sure that millions are reading these posts and reposts and e-mails. While we'll never be able to settle on whether it's 10 million or 100 million that have accessed a non-harmonious article in the past year, you can be sure it's in the millions for readership ... maybe even production and distribution have over a million.

    If you read the article (and I thought I made it clear in the summary with the pyramid analogy), it sounds like there are a lot of eyes on this stuff. Nothing to sneeze at like you did. In the end, the article made it seem like accessing the New York Times interview with Google cofounder Sergey Brin (in wihch he speaks out against China's censorship) was not that hard of a thing to do if you wanted to do it in China.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:02PM (#31846716)
    The general attitude in China, from what I've gathered over the past two years, is that political freedom is not a high priority to the average citizen, as long as the government continues to handle the economy well.
  • Re:Numbers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MikeDaSpike ( 1196169 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:10PM (#31846828)
    Population: 1,325,639,982
    % of internet users: 22
    Number of internet users: 291,640,796

    United States
    Population: 307,006,550
    % of internet users: 72
    Number of internet users: 221,044,716

    In other words, despise having 4 times the population of the US, china only has less than 50% more internet users. Your perspective is skewed.
  • Re:Numbers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Reapman ( 740286 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:11PM (#31846838)

    That's like saying nobody uses Microsoft Windows because only a few few hundred (thousand?) people built the software. It's typical that the content providers are a smaller group then the content consumers. People like Xiaomi are likely your "hardcore" group, the group that feels the strongest about it and which always makes up the smallest %.

    Most people consume media, not distribute it.

  • by zero_out ( 1705074 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:15PM (#31846902)

    Who wins really depends on what you define as the goal. If you define the goal of censors as "preventing any undesired material from getting through" then they are doomed to failure. They would need to win every single time, squashing every single instance of material that they wish to block. The evaders would only need to get one piece of material past the censors to win.

    The real goal is much more complicated, and depends on critical mass of information being achieved for the evaders to win, while the censors need only prevent this critical mass from being achieved. It's much like childhood vaccinations. For the disease to win, it needs to reach critical mass in the herd, infecting a certain percentage of the population to become self-perpetuating. For the herd to win, it needs to prevent the disease from reaching critical mass. A few small pockets of individuals can be sacrificed for the greater good of the herd, but as long as those pockets are small and contained, critical mass won't be achieved, and a full-blown outbreak can be prevented.

    So what do you think the Chinese government's goal is? The blocking of every instance of undesired material from getting through, and "protecting" every single citizen? Or is it prevention of critical mass, which would mean that enough people learn the truth that they decide to overthrow the government?

  • Re:Cause and Effect (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:18PM (#31850186) Homepage Journal

    ``This is a government that is unable or in some cases unwilling to crack down on many illegal and harmful practices.''

    That sounds a lot like a typical corrupt government, to me. I seem to recall corruption has been receiving quite some attention in official political statements in recent years. Any insights on how things are progressing there?

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351