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Censorship China The Internet Politics

Great Firewall of China Blocks Edgecast CDN, Thousands of Websites Affected 128

An anonymous reader writes: Starting about a week ago, The Great Firewall of China began blocking the Edgecast CDN. This was spurred by Great Fire's Collateral Freedom project, which used CDNs to get around censorship of individual domains. It left China with either letting go of censorship, or breaking significant chunks of the Internet for their population. China chose to do the latter, and now many websites are no longer functional for Chinese users. I just helped a friend diagnose this problem with his company's site, so it's likely many people are still just starting to discover what's happened and the economic impact is yet to be fully realized. Hopefully pressure on China will reverse the decision.
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Great Firewall of China Blocks Edgecast CDN, Thousands of Websites Affected

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  • I never heard of any of those sites listed in TFA. And since it's doubtful anyone in China cares about the Colts, that leaves Mozilla.

    it's likely many people are still just starting to discover what's happened and the economic impact is yet to be fully realized

    Economic impact would be probably close to zero.

    • Really? The problem is what you know, and what you are told. That screenshot is just the customer showcase from Edgecast's site.

      Just looking at some of the list in the order which caught my eye:

      Mozilla - Self explanatory for the Slashdot reader.
      EMI - The music publishing arm of the EMI currently owned by UMG. Of note is that EMI has a Chinese subsidiary.
      Break Media - A humor video site, quite a popular one at that. You'll probably find their logo slapped around videos played on youtube.
      The Atlantic - A news

      • That's a lot of popular websites, sure, but how many of these websites are commonly used in China? How many of these websites even have a Chinese version? After all, not everybody speaks English.

        LinkedIn has entered the Chinese market, but it's not as well-known as local sites such as 51job, Pokemon games still aren't available in Chinese [kotaku.com], and wordpress.org is only of interest to people who self-host blogs (wordpress.com has been blocked for a couple of years). The rest, few have even heard of.

        China has its

        • In the older generation yes you would be right. Their internet is a completely different beast to ours.

          The younger generation on the other hand is quite a bit different and very much like the western version of the internet. On my last trip over visiting friends, for every person I saw on baidu I saw another on Google. The kids read reddit, and 4chan, watch western programming via Netflix and have Facebook accounts.

          Mind you these people also subscribed to paid VPN services so maybe you're right and this blo

          • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

            Not sure what you're talking about, but overwhelming majority of people do not in fact use VPNs in China. As a result, none of the sites you mention are available to them. Instead, China has its own circle of web sites that do the same things.

            Notably same is true for Korea, Japan and Russia at the very least. Basically, any large country with distinctly different cultural base from Western one and sufficiently large market to sustain those sites.

            Your story sounds like a bit of you having been in a bubble of

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Economic impact would be probably close to zero.

      It depends on who blinks first. If the site that's broken is highly reliant on Chinese traffic (and it ISN'T hosted in China), then likely they'll cave and use another CDN. The economic impact to the site owners is probably greater than trying to ride it out hoping China would change its policies. (And many other countries - why is it China is singled out for its firewall, when most countries have similar setups?)

      If the site has little Chinese traffic, they l

      • "why is it China is singled out for its firewall, when most countries have similar setups?"

        Biggest population. Biggest global economic role. Also arguably the most sophisticated censorship system, in terms of both technology and administration.

    • Economic impact would be probably close to zero.

      A story on the same blog posted 4 days ago [greatfire.org] shows that HSBC's [wikipedia.org] corporate banking site was jsut blocked because the CDN Akamai [wikipedia.org] got blocked. Apparently, "HSBC uses Akamai as part of the secure login system for clients".

      What the blog doesn't say however is that many corporations in China are already paying for proxies outside of China that they access through VPNs, so as to circumvent China's great firewall. And that HSBC probably scrambled to remove the login dependency on Akamai as soon as it received customer

      • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

        A far more likely scenario is that Akamai will do anything and everything in their power to find which users were against Chinese rules and purge them from their network, or at the very least block them from being accessed from China.

        Akamai is huge, probably world's biggest in terms of content delivery. As a result, they likely don't want to lose customers that need to do business in the world's most populous country.

      • by jonadab ( 583620 )
        Blocking Akamai would have significantly more impact than blocking Edgecast, because Akamai is the *big* CDN. It's like the difference between blocking Bing and blocking Google. One will result in bitter complaints, and the other will result in torches and pitchforks.
  • I had to block ALL of china's IP addresses due to constant and incessant hacking attacks. They have so many bad actors this can only be a good thing.
    • Just because you don't have an interest in dealing with 1/7th of the world's population does not make it a good business move.

      • by ruir ( 2709173 )
        Why not? I do not have an idea why he was modded down. The point his we have customers and relations with China, otherwise I would do the exact same thing. China and Russia are the worst offenders when it takes to spam bots and cyber attacks/probes.
      • If you don't have any customers in China (like 6/7 of the world) then you lose nothing by banning Chinese internet. Hell, I used to run a site inside China and I had to ban .ru addresses because I got nothing but spam from them.
        • by ruir ( 2709173 )
          Indeed. I once had to ban mail.ru in a former job because we only got spam from there.
          • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

            Mail.ru is the Russian free webmail site. Problem is that they allowed POP3 access to their systems even before google did, so a lot of spammers used them.

        • Which is the opposite of what happened in this case where a company with business in China suddenly found themselves unable to get access.

          That was my point. Just because the GP didn't want to deal with China doesn't mean there aren't many people who do, and that those dealings outweigh the risk of his perceived open attack surface.

  • pressure from the West normally gets China to do things differently. Unfortunately, I can't think of ANY examples right now where it has worked in that direct of a manner.

    • It used to be that the entire world was very scared of the Pressure from the *West* because it would be a crushing blow to whoever the West decided to punish
       
      It used to be, no more
       
      The West is getting weaker by the day - as their technological / military / moral advantage get plummeted - nowadays even the banana republics in Africa / Latin America / Asia do not care so much about what the *West* wants anymore

      • whoosh.

  • As most websites are no longer self contained, but require numerous dependencies to other websites for data, content, analytics and js libraries, China's gated internet will become more isolated from the rest of the world.

    Perhaps Hong Kong may face similar issues with regards to net access and online freedom in the near future? There has been talks about that recently.

    Maybe web developers will need to write a "China mode" for front end sites, in addition to "Desktop" or "Mobile" mode that will only use old school 1990's style HTML look and feel. Bring back the frames :)

    • Why would you link to libraries on a remote web server? I this time and again, and have never understood the reasoning.

      • by Tom ( 822 )

        Because of the many advantages it offers. Linking to jquery on a CDN, for example, not only reduces the load on your server, and the number of connections, there is also a really good chance the visitor already has it cached because many sites do it and thus share a URL. And even if not, at least that part of your site will come from a localized node.

        • I suppose I hadn't thought the CDN content already being cached. Granted, for high volume sites, 100KB will add up, and it's one less (possible more) file for the client to download, but I'm still not massively keen on the idea of the possibility that the library I'm using may have been altered.

          I'm aware that I haven't audited the library I downloaded from jQuery, but we've often seen malware being served unwittingly by 3rd parties*. However, I'd also hope that jQuery regularly verify that files served from

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      China's gated internet will become more isolated from the rest of the world.

      And you think they care very much?

      What we in the west fail to understand is how isolated non-western countries already are. I know some inside views from Russia through personal contacts. Russia has its own Facebook (vk), it's own Google (yandex) and so on. For pretty much every popular service, it has its own version, usually much more popular than the western variant.

      I can imagine it's the same for China. They could be isolated and for most people not much would change.

  • "It left China with either letting go of censorship, or breaking significant chunks of the Internet for their population."

    I love the tiny minds at work here. People who cannot see outside of themselves, nor consider any perspective but their own Western one. As if there were any choice involved! China doesn't block websites because they're evil, they block websites because they are damaging to China's body politic. These overseas actors want to harm China, and like antibodies reacting to bacteria, Chi

    • I remind everyone that the Chinese Communist Party is made up of the smartest people in China.

      I remind everyone that the CCP is also made up of people who happen to have the right connections, or be born into the right families.

      • China had gone from third-world mudhole to industrial superpower in fifty years, and is now capable of taking on Europe and the mighty US even in science and advanced engineering. Whatever their qualifications, they seem to know what they are doing.

        • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
          Pure science, I will agree with you. Advanced engineering, no way they are on par.
        • It's easy to win "most improved" when starting from a third-world mudhole. It's also easy to become "a powerhouse" when you've got a billion people to work with.

          Let's also not forget that, while China had stagnated for hundreds of years prior to the early 20th century, it has a very long history as an advanced civilization. The "cultural infrastructure" if you will was there.

          I don't think the Communist Party has been entirely incompetent with China, but, compare China's success to the democratic governmen

        • Preface: Said as a person who lived in China full-time for 6 years, and has spent the majority of the last 3 years in China. And married to a Chinese national...

          China has a lot of really, really smart people. However, innovation does not exist culturally within the vast majority of Chinese - and seems to be even less present in those with university degrees. There is still a lot of the old Maoist "follow orders only/don't speak up" culture well set within China.

          If you want to execute on an idea, China ca

    • but the fact remains that it's for China's own good that these actions are taken.

      Bullshit to that. It's for the good of those in positions of power. Nothing more, nothing less.

      I remind everyone that the Chinese Communist Party is made up of the smartest people in China. It is full of scientists and engineers, people with analytical minds, and people who are qualified to make decisions for others.

      My god we could do with more politicians here qualified in something other than politics, but those qualificatio

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I remind everyone that the Chinese Communist Party is made up of the smartest people in China. It is full of scientists and engineers, people with analytical minds

      No, it is full of politicians who struggle for power, at least where it counts.

      , and people who are qualified to make decisions for others.

      No, the government should _not_ decide what is appropriate and what is not appropriate to read.

      If Slashdot were based in China, the most thoughtful constantly-modded-up users would be mostly CCP members.

      Strangely enough Slashdot is _not_ based in China. Wonder why that is...

      Getting healthcare for millions of uninsured is the same as China's blocking these harmful websites.

      No.

      A little harm is done, mostly to people who intend harm in the first place, and much good is done to people who badly need it. It is a Faustian bargain, but it is worth it.

      No, a huge damage to society is done, because there is no free exchange of ideas, and the "good" is not done to the people, it's "good" for the ruling party, which is afraid of information and ideas that might breach through the fear they use to stay in power.

      The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

      No,

    • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
      I was in China last month, our hotel had CNN. As soon as it reached the segment about Hong Kong, the channel just blacked out. About 10 minutes later it came back on as if nothing happened.

      Why be scared of external opinions? You do not see that as censorship? Suppressing history is censorship.

      You are basically calling the Chinese populace a bunch of idiots who would not know how to make decisions for themselves.
      • I was in China last month, our hotel had CNN. As soon as it reached the segment about Hong Kong, the channel just blacked out. About 10 minutes later it came back on as if nothing happened.

        Why be scared of external opinions? You do not see that as censorship? Suppressing history is censorship.

        You are basically calling the Chinese populace a bunch of idiots who would not know how to make decisions for themselves.

        This is why

        http://www.theguardian.com/uk/... [theguardian.com]

        the rioters in other cities also got the idea from news media.

        News media and social networking blackout on the riots when they started would likely have stopped the riots happening in the other cities. Because the democratic UK had little taste for such media control the situation got very out of hand. Thats part and parcel of being a democracy eh.

    • I remind everyone that the Chinese Communist Party is made up of the smartest people in China. It is full of scientists and engineers, people with analytical minds, and people who are qualified to make decisions for others. If Slashdot were based in China, the most thoughtful constantly-modded-up users would be mostly CCP members.

      WHAT? Hi there, I've lived in China the vast majority (like 80%+) of the last 10 years, and am married to a Chinese national. Most of the CCP members inherited their positions from their parents. They also tend to be the ones who inherited the biggest companies in China as well (banks, telecoms, heavy industries). Capability/intelligence is NOT the reason you're in the CCP - relationships/political gamesmanship/familial relations are what keep the CCP members in the CCP.

      Think of John Gruber, the MIT economist who helped get the badly needed Affordable Care Act passed despite opposition from lesser minds.

      Badly needed ACA? The biggest f

      • Yes, this! The CCP first priority is to ensure grip on power for the CCP, by the CCP. They do reach out to their own universities smartest and brightest to offer a position though. But such intelligence and brainpower is used to play the game. Today your friend is your sworn enemy tomorrow. Backstabbing is the name of the game in the CCP as I understand it (from others). And like a gang or mafia, once your in, your IN baby. Someone, will hold you for blackmail; even if the entire reason is made us BS. Fuck

    • The Western mindset that censorship is automatically bad is outdated and unsuitable for 2014 and beyond. We need to just relax and let the smart people do their thing.

      last time we tried that we got eugenics, and a world war. Just letting the "smart" people run things is terrible, because how can you objectively define "smart". It might work in the short run, but by no means is it sustainable.

      Sooner or later you have "smart" defined as "self intrests of the ruling class", and "intellectual, and scientific" backing is niether intellectual or scientific, simply a means of oppression, and just rubber stamping the status quo. When something becomes a means of status, the i

    • Oh definitely. Having the best and brightest make all the decisions in our increasingly complex world is clearly the way to go. Letting the elite few have control is the wave of the future. It's what enabled the success of the Soviet Union and Germany's Third Reich, allowed China to flourish during the Cultural Revolution, and what makes North Korea the paradise it is today. Listening to the unwashed masses is what has held back the United States and other Western democracies over the past century. We need
  • It left China with either letting go of censorship, or breaking significant chunks of the Internet for their population.

    DMCA-style takedown or GEO-Lockdown of CDN content upon an e-mail request of the Chinese government.

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