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Censorship Science Your Rights Online

Is China's "Great Firewall" a Fraud? 185

Posted by kdawson
from the leaky-filter dept.
An anonymous reader notes an article up on ScienceBlogs that calls into question the efficacy of the touted "Great Firewall of China" — a program by the government of the People's Republic of China to block users from reaching content it finds objectionable. Researchers at UC Davis and the University of New Mexico have performed experiments on the Great Firewall, sending test content to destinations inside China and observing what gets through. They conclude that the Great Firewall is more of a "panopticon" that encourages self-censorship through the perception that users may be being watched, rather than a true firewall.
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Is China's "Great Firewall" a Fraud?

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  • by MrNaz (730548) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @02:37AM (#20568005) Homepage
    That Chinese government! They like to kid. Remember Tiananmen Square? What a hoot!
    • by Chapter80 (926879) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:24AM (#20568649)
      Interesting comparison: China says they are watching the citizens, and the citizens self-censor.

      In the US, we preach freedom, and people feel they aren't being watched, and probably let their guard down. Yet our very act of patriotism, "The Patriot Act", provides unprecedented watching.

      • by baldass_newbie (136609) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @05:17AM (#20568997) Homepage Journal
        The only other difference is that China puts dissidents to death.
        Here, we give them news and comedy shows.
        Oh, the irony.
      • by TempeTerra (83076)
        Not to nitpick, but there's no "The Patriot Act". What everyone means by it is the USAPATRIOT Act [wikipedia.org], USAPATRIOT being the initialism of the cumbersome name deliberately chosen to spell USAPATRIOT. There's nothing patriotic about it, and the naming scam insults the intelligence of the nation with the implicit assumption that people will think "but it's called the Patriot act! How could it be wrong?"
        • 1. Only on slashdot can an article about Communist China be somehow turned back on the US.

          2. "Not to nitpick," but the act is routinely known and referred to by all manner of sources and media as "the Patriot Act", as is noted in the first sentence of the Wikipedia article you chose to link. Yes, it is officially "The USA PATRIOT Act". Also, all acts have positive names, some cutesy, some acronyms, so they'll, you know, have public appeal and do things like, you know, pass, which is presumably what the peop
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Remember Tiananmen Square?
      Yes. [google.com]
      No. [google.cn]
  • by mdenham (747985) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @02:38AM (#20568011)
    ...that the "Great Firewall" is only filtering packets that are outbound from China.

    Not necessarily likely, mind you, but it's possible.
    • by squidinkcalligraphy (558677) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @02:54AM (#20568135)
      Actually a true filter would be way too costly and slow to work on this scale. Rather than blocking the actual connections, when a user tries to connect to a 'banned' website (or banned words/phrases are detected), the firewall sends a reset packet to both sides of the TCP connection, which effectively closes the channel. Unless of course both client and server know to ignore reset packets.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @03:00AM (#20568171)
      Hi,I have been in China last fall. I was not able to access: wikipedia.*, italian online newspapers, beppegrillo.it blog and some other sites.... but I could use a vpn connection to redirect all ip traffic and verify that these sites were up and running. Even the Great Firewall was up and running. And it works quite well!
  • Nothing for you to see here. Please move along. Move citizen. You are being watched. Put up enough info that many things are prohibited and make the punishments public, and then make everyone think they are being watched. People will police themselves out of fear. It's effective and much cheaper than a true blocking system. And if you have at least some system to catch people, it becomes more effective. So the net effect is probably about the same.
    • Re:Equivalent (Score:5, Insightful)

      by flyingsquid (813711) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @03:32AM (#20568401)
      I was in Beijing less than a week ago, and while I was there I had tea with some Chinese scientists. I was surprised to learn (I had to be told, since I know about three words in Mandarin) that they were actually having an argument about, well, politics. I guess I'd just sort of assumed that talking about politics in China was like talking about your sex life in front of your parents, something you just didn't do. I then had an interesting discussion with a senior scientist there; she argued that Chinese socialism was the worst system of all because of all the abuses and corruption, mentioning numerous instances where Chinese scientists and officials would bill the government for personal expenses, meals, family vacations, and soforth.

      I can't claim that this has given me any profound insight into how the system affects the Chinese. What I did find was striking was this- I wrote an email about this experience to a friend. And afterwards, suddenly I started to worry. Not about myself, but about the Chinese woman I'd had a discussion with. I concluded it probably wasn't a problem, since all I did was mention that we "discussed socialism" which could mean just about anything. But knowing that my communications could be watched, and that the government could potentially harm someone because of what I said... well, our conversation was one of the most interesting experiences I had while I was there, but I didn't bother to mention it in any of my other emails to friends. So for me, that was the really scary thing, not the knowledge that the government could harm me, but that it could harm the people around me if I wasn't careful about what I said. So certainly, the system seemed to be having the desired effect with me, and I'm a westerner used to free (as in consequence-free) expression, and I was just there for a week.

      What I have to wonder is, what's going to happen at the Olympics? Beijing is going to be flooded with foreigners. And unlike the Tienanmen square uprising, there will be cameras- digital cameras, video cameras, cell phone cameras, news cameras- everywhere, and I don't see how the Chinese government can possibly control the flow of information. All it's going to take is a few media-savvy demonstrators who want to make a scene, and either the government will have to tolerate them (which will be bad for them) or crack down (and have everyone witness it, which will be worse). I don't know... I think they may have gotten more than they bargained with in getting the international attention of the Olympics.

      • The Chinese government will behave themselves during the Olympics. Attempts to control these kinds of actions by foreigners would result in heat from the rest of the world. They want positive PR, plain and simple. An outward appearance of freedom is more important than actual freedom.

        They'll probably crack down once the Olympics are over.
      • Re:Equivalent (Score:5, Insightful)

        by arivanov (12034) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @05:14AM (#20568977) Homepage
        Nothing new here. Soviet block was the same.
        • Politics were the most popular topic for a drunken conversation around the table in the ex-Soviet Union.
        • Political jokes constituted roughly 60-70% of all humour floating around. We had jokes about the fact that Brezhnev jokes cannot exist because they violate the fundamental universal constraint on the speed of light by travelling from one end of Moscow to another instantaneously.
        • The situation in other ex-Warsaw block countries like Bulgaria was not any different. It went even further. Everyone was grumbling, taking the piss of the system, moaning complaining, telling political jokes. Nobody was even considering rebelling or doing something proactive against the government.
        • Add to that that a lot of the literature and "formally allowed" humour like stand up comedians at the time had a lot of politics and very serious political satire inside.
          • For example on the subject of what you are mentioning - scientists taking the piss of the system - just read "Monday starts on Saturday". That is present in plenty of books from that period. "Monday starts on Saturday" and "Snail on a Slope" by the Strugatcki brothers come to mind as a perfect example.
          • Similarly people like Okudzhava, Zhvanecki, etc wrote all kinds of stuff that was taking the piss of the system and that was sang by people, shown in theatres and some of that even shown on TV.
        What the "socialists" do not tolerate is open rebellion. That they squash straight away. They let the people grumble and vent steam (within limits) because if they clamp on that the chances for open rebellion increase dramatically. They do not have the resources to clamp on all of that either.

        Further to this, organising something like Tian-an-Men Square or the student strikes nowdays requires money and is usually supported by foreign resource. Been there, seen that in the ex-Soviet block. Never got my hands dirty with it though (probably should have). If China does a good job of following all suitcases with money flowing into the country prior to the Olimpics they will not need to worry about any troubles.

      • Re:Equivalent (Score:4, Interesting)

        by fliptout (9217) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @06:51AM (#20569565) Homepage
        Did you hear clicking noises on your phone while in China, too? :D

        Regarding the Chinese system of business relationships, it is called guanxi. I term it a euphemism for corruption. But hey, Chinese culture is 5000 years old, or so they claim, and things do not change swiftly there.

        Regarding discretion of speech, some of my chinese friends were not afraid to says "fuck the communist party" in front of other chinese. It is not a big deal anymore. Just don't say something dumb on live tv or make yourself a big target.

        The government will become interested if you try to foment an insurrection and challenge their power. Small scale chit chat probably does not register a blip on their radar these days. Now that we are in the 21st century, I assume that all communication is monitored, no matter where you are. Email is sent in plain text, IM in plain text as well, etc etc.

        As to the Beijing olympics... I think the government's main problem at the moment is smog. A clear blue sky is a rarity there these days, and this does not create the best impression of the city. I *loved* living in Beijing, but the air quality is terrible.

        Hope you enjoyed Beijing! :)
      • You worry too much (Score:2, Interesting)

        by hackingbear (988354)
        I was born in China in the 1970's. when I was kid and I had no many toy so I tried to fold a paper ship out of a newspaper, but my sister, who is 5 years older, told me not to do that because there was the picture of Chairman Mao on the paper. that was pretty much the only self-discipline event I have remembered. Then starting in the early 1980's, thing started loosen up. Nobody cared or worried if you said bad things about the government or the part or the leaders; we listened to radio from Hong Kong as we
    • by gl4ss (559668)
      depends on how aware the chinese are of the system, somehow i doubt too many understand the specifics how things work(not everyone is a geek), for them the end result is just that some sites don't work. probably not causing that much fear.

      any goverment with big enough resources may watch any chosen individuals, the smaller the country the smaller the resources but then again the smaller group to watch. you don't really need high tech for this, it's quite effective if you just recruit 1/4 of the people to wa
  • by flyingsquid (813711) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @02:38AM (#20568015)
    It's completely ineffective and a waste of resources. All the Mongolian internet users just look for a weak point and then pour through in hordes.
  • Not surprising. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaedalusHKX (660194) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @02:38AM (#20568019) Journal
    I find that "panopticon" is something unfamiliar to many western readers. This concept, however was evident in many places where totalitarian authoritarian states were to be found. This includes the North American continent which has at least 3 known authoritarian states.

    However, the Great Firewall is no surprise, as it is more likely civilian self censorship and self policing that results in most "apprehensions" of dissenters the Chinese government makes yearly. Many of these people are not caught by the "technologies" or police departments, but instead are turned in by "good citizens" (otherwise known as family members and friends).

    Again this comes as no surprise to me.
    • comon (Score:4, Insightful)

      by frakir (760204) <ockhamrazor@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @02:59AM (#20568165)

      I find that "panopticon" is something unfamiliar to many western readers.
      Western readers just call "panopticon" in politicaly correct way.
      They call it 'political correctness'.
      • by QuickFox (311231)

        Western readers just call "panopticon" in politicaly correct way.
        They call it 'political correctness'.
        Depends on the country. In the US there are two words, "un-American" and "unpatriotic".
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Belacgod (1103921)
      Which is interesting, as it was invented by Jeremy Bentham as part of a prison reform scheme. (I may be wrong about him having originated the term, but he did use it as such).
    • Re:Not surprising. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Capsaicin (412918) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:48AM (#20568797)

      I find that "panopticon" is something unfamiliar to many western readers. This concept, however was evident in many places where totalitarian authoritarian states were to be found.

      That's kind of odd really given that the concept was invented and advocated by that great champion of individual liberty Jeremy Bentham, and given that the concept has been influential in western prison design. I guess it just goes to show that not enough people read Foucault ;).

      For those unfamiliar with the concept, the Panopticon [wikipedia.org] was a prison design in which prisoners could at any time be under surveillance, without any way of telling whether they in fact were.

  • by appleLaserWriter (91994) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @02:46AM (#20568079)
    What they don't want you to know is that it is painted with lead paint!
    • What they don't want you to know is that it is painted with lead paint!

      Ah, so THAT'S how it works! It prevents X-rays from going through! :-o
  • by pwizard2 (920421) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @02:47AM (#20568081)
    Just imagine the effort it would take to continually watch even a small percentage of the population at any given time. Not to mention, effective surveillance would require people to do the watching (not just machines) and word would get out about it, no matter how oppressive the regime.

    I would compare this with the carpool lanes on USA highways.They are one of the few instances that I could think of that has signs posted every few hundred feet to warn would-be violators about the dire consequences. It basically boils down to the fact that it is impossible to effectively police the carpool lane vehicle occupant policy (due to the fact that many vehicles have tinted windows and are moving at a high rate of speed, thereby making it difficult to see inside the vehicle), so they have to try and scare people instead.
    • by Rakishi (759894)

      I would compare this with the carpool lanes on USA highways.They are one of the few instances that I could think of that has signs posted every few hundred feet to warn would-be violators about the dire consequences. It basically boils down to the fact that it is impossible to effectively police the carpool lane vehicle occupant policy (due to the fact that many vehicles have tinted windows and are moving at a high rate of speed, thereby making it difficult to see inside the vehicle), so they have to try and scare people instead.

      Which makes it no different from any other law, it's not really scaring them as much as making them aware of the consequences. Sure it's half as likely to catch someone but if the penalties are twice as much then logically it comes out the same.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by darkfire5252 (760516)

      Just imagine the effort it would take to continually watch even a small percentage of the population at any given time. Not to mention, effective surveillance would require people to do the watching (not just machines) and word would get out about it, no matter how oppressive the regime.

      Right. The only way a state or other entity could possibly afford to take on a project as ambitious as 'watch everyone everywhere at all times' would be to find some way to get massive amounts of funding and support.

    • by pthor1231 (885423)
      Regarding the carpool lane, some places actually enforce it, especially via commuter call ins. I know in Washington, specifcally around the Seattle area, there are the signs every so often that designates it a carpool lane, but it also has a number to call in and report violators. Actually, thats kind of a strange resemblance to the panopticon design.
    • Not strictly necessary to actually monitor everyone...or even a significant percentage of everyone.

      There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that

    • by Mashiki (184564)
      Remember the Stasi(Staatssicherheit).

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

      You don't have to watch the entire population, when 300,000 informants are on your payroll and you don't know who friend from foe is. The East Germans and Russians did a really good job of keeping track of everyone they wanted to and that was 95% of the population.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @02:47AM (#20568087)
    In communist China, YOU watch YOU!
  • This is in the science section. Why?
  • I live in China ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @03:00AM (#20568169)

    I live in China. I have always been amused reading about the "Great Firewall of China" in the Western media. It really isn't that big of a deal. Very little is blocked, other than porn. Websites advocating Tibetan/Mongolian*/Xinjiang separatism, or Taiwanese independence in Chinese are blocked, but similar sites in English rarely are. The BBC is blocked, not sure why. That is about it.

    Proxy lists are widely available. You can ask for one in almost any Internet cafe. So the Firewall is easy to bypass. 99.9% of people using the proxies are looking at porn.

    The "Great Firewall" is actually fairly popular in China, because it means people can let their kids browse without worrying about them seeing erect penises.

    * Yes, I know that Mongolia is already an independent country. But most Mongolians don't live there. 80% of them live in China.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by i_b_don (1049110)
      > I live in China. I have always been amused reading about the "Great
      > Firewall of China" in the Western media. It really isn't that big
      > of a deal. Very little is blocked, other than porn. (!!!)

      -and you call this "not a big deal"??? Damn man, you're missing out!

      d
    • by Goonie (8651) * <robert@merkel.benambra@org> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @03:43AM (#20568449) Homepage
      My home newspaper and the Wikipedia are also blocked.

      And, surprisingly enough, the vast majority of Chinese people can't read English. So the existence of English-language media discussing controversial topics is largely irrelevant to all but a relatively small elite.

      • by 2Bits (167227)
        Tor and Privoxy would do the trick. BBC and Wikipedia can be accessed that way. Just that sometimes it is a little bit slow to get connected to a tor node.

        • by Goonie (8651) *
          It's not that difficult to get around, but you're probably committing a crime to do so.

          Hence, everyone in China who uses the internet is a criminal...

          • by 2Bits (167227)

            Well, how do you define this as a crime? There is no legislation saying that the government is setting up a firewall or filtering system, and that no one should get around this, otherwise you'd be a criminal. No law is broken here. Sure, this does not mean they can't round you up and "evaporate" you (in 1984 terminology).

      • Wikipedia? (Score:3, Informative)

        by fliptout (9217)
        It was not blocked when I was in Shanghai three weeks ago..
        Though Wikipedia was blocked for most of my year in china from August 2005 to August 2006. So annoying...
    • I also live in China (Score:4, Informative)

      by RobertinXinyang (1001181) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @05:10AM (#20568955)
      A tremendous amount of sites are blocked. Many of them are barely political at all. I can not even get to my own blog. I can post but not view. Of course, there is wikipedia; but then, there is also VOA. It is incredible, the students are tested on a standardized test using material from VOA; however, they can not go to the site. To download the mp3s of the VOA broadcasts there are back door ways of doing it; but, it is just plain stupid. It is part of the TEM4 exam.

      I am not going to bother listing the NON-PORN sites that I can not access. Rest assured that I hit one of these sites almost daily. Most Chinese are not aware of the firewall, this is true, they just think that this is the way the Internet works.
    • by RazzleDazzle (442937) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @07:22AM (#20569767) Journal
      They also appear to be blocking protocols other than HTTP. I was troubleshooting SMTP connection problems with a company in China. During the transmission of the body of email from an SMTP server in China to an SMTP server in the US we were getting RSTs, this was completely reproducible. The company in China had a private link to a carrier outside of China and when they routed their outbound SMTP traffic across this link they did not have any problems delivering the mail. Switched back to their regular chinese connection and they were getting RSTs again. We never spent the time trying to narrow it down to specific content within the message body, but that might have been interesting to see what it was as the content seemed to be rather innocuous.
      • by Random832 (694525)
        It could be the fact that it's an IP in china, and the receiving mail server thinks all chinese email servers are spambots.
    • If you think that this in not a big deal, then you are already where they want you to be. This is about control. By the way, it will get worse, bit by bit.
    • by aliquis (678370)
      Thought, the question here of course is if someone else shall be allowed to decide what you should be able to read or be part of. (See the falun gong reference if nothing else, thought maybe that is hard if you sit behind the firewall...)

      Anyway something else which is updated all the time to block all ads and eventually all commercial parts of the Internet aswell and I'll sign up :D
      The web where so much better during mid 90s with no flash and personal webpages instead of lots of portals registring misspelle
  • It's there (Score:2, Informative)

    by Cygnus78 (628037)
    I have been to china several times and I can't recall having seen a case of "content filtering", but then again I have not looked for it. However sites are blocked, last time I could not reach bbc, flickr or wikipedia as a few examples.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ShanghaiBill (739463)

      last time I could not reach bbc, flickr or wikipedia as a few examples.

      Wikipedia is no longer blocked, but some specific pages (Tibet, Fulan Gong) are. I just tried accessing Flickr, and had no problem. The BBC is still blocked.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Cygnus78 (628037)
        Wikipedia is no longer blocked, but some specific pages (Tibet, Fulan Gong) are. I just tried accessing Flickr, and had no problem. The BBC is still blocked.

        Actually it seemed to be different in different places. BBC and Flickr was blocked everywhere I tried but Wikipedia was blocked only at the office but not in my apartment.
      • by Echnin (607099)
        Wikipedia was blocked again on August 29. I have to use a proxy to reach it now.
    • Tried searching Google for "Tiananmen Square"?
  • These lines are from the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party [ninecommentaries.com]

    The CCP uses both soft and hard methods concurrently. Sometimes they would be relaxed in some instances while strict in others, or they would be relaxed on the outside while stiff in their internal affairs. In a relaxed atmosphere, the CCP encouraged the expression of different opinions, but, as if luring the snake out of its hole, those who did speak up would only be persecuted in the following period of strict control.

    The West is famil

  • by wdr1 (31310) * <wdr1 AT pobox DOT com> on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @03:34AM (#20568415) Homepage Journal
    ... I can definitely tell you there is a firewall. Short of using a proxy (thank you ssh -D), no machine can access Wikipedia, Blogger, etc.

    -Bill
  • Conspiracy Theory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Belacgod (1103921) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @03:47AM (#20568463)
    Lots of commenters here have said "I live in China, and all you need is a proxy to get around this."

    What if the CCP has purposely built their firewall to be circumventable with just a little hacking? A few years of this and much of the population has an interest and a little skill in computer tricks, increasing the pool of computer talent in the country for both peaceful development and recruitment for nasty hacker armies? They could be engaging in social engineering to get a leg up in computer warfare.

    In WWII, one huge advantage the USA had was that every kid had grown up tinkering with old cars, so every tank crew had an amateur mechanic, without having to specifically assign and train them. This could produce a similar effect for the Chinese.

    • What if the CCP has purposely built their firewall to be circumventable with just a little hacking? A few years of this and much of the population has an interest and a little skill in computer tricks, increasing the pool of computer talent in the country for both peaceful development and recruitment for nasty hacker armies? They could be engaging in social engineering to get a leg up in computer warfare.

      It doesn't sound very plausible to me. Just because someone uses a proxy doesn't mean they understand

      • by Belacgod (1103921)
        You can be generally patriotic and disagree with some of your country's policies enough to circumvent them. It's not all-or-nothing. Given a severe enough threat, or perceived threat, to China, lots of Chinese who dislike their government in some ways would still rally behind it (I'm not going to comment on the correctness of any of these, but that's what happened to the Bush administration post-9/11, and it's what Ahmedinajad and the Iranian government is counting on the current crisis to create). It's
  • by STDK (1084535) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @03:49AM (#20568471)
    My experience from having lived here in a year is something like this:

    It is actively censuring the most common adult *cough*Porn*cough* sites, many news sites, a lot of blogs are inaccessible etc. For about 1/5 of the links from /. I get 404 or something similar.

    Sometimes when I get too annoyed about this unreasonable amount of blockage and then cross-check with TOR running I get about 99% functional pages.

    It works in another way as well, the basic communication from China to abroad is VERY slow. Basically downloading anything, that be software, articles playing WOW in EU server and so on is excruciating, if at all possible. Downloading from Chinese sites I can max out my band width.

    Bigger hotels in international cities such as Shanghai and Beijing seems to by-pass the firewall, so for many visitors they will never notice this. On a related note, the big hotels also have permission to show international TV such as CNN, BBC, HBO, where local people can get StarMovie, TCM and the Hallmark.

    If the authorities are actively monitoring what we try to get hold of, I don't know, but the functional effects of 200.000 people actively banning the internet can not be denied.

    For anyone who doubt the existence of the firewall, I suggest trying to live in China.

    STDK

  • by LS (57954) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:27AM (#20568661) Homepage
    I can tell you that the things in the west are very exaggerated. You can pretty much speak about anything you want here in public, as long as it doesn't cover a few hot-button topics. You can take photos and video anywhere. Many services are paid for anonymously, so there is very little tracking. And the public is aware that internet filtering is more of manifestation of a policy than the policy itself. This is very common in Chinese culture - the outward manifestation and the implicit reality being two different things. This allows for quick flexibility, whether it be bending the rules by those that obey them, or changing the rules by those that create them. You are expected to know where this implicit line lies so that you do not step on toes, even though it will never be explicitly described. It has it's positives and negatives, for example the ability to quickly override bureaucracy, but also greasing the skids of nepotism.

    Anyway, the firewall is like DRM. It 'protects' the general public from seeing things they shouldn't, but it isn't really effective against anyone who knows anything.

    LS
    • And exactly what are the hot-button topics? how did you find out what not to talk about? And what happens if you do?
      • by fliptout (9217) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @07:01AM (#20569639) Homepage
        Taiwan is a biggie. China sees Taiwan as a rogue province, and mainland Chinese people are acutely aware that the USA does not, ahem, see eye to eye with Beijing on the matter. I've traveled to Taiwan and lived in the mainland, and I frankly got sick of talking about it. They have their propaganda, the Taiwanese have theirs, and we have ours(USA). The question of independence is a matter of national pride in China and Taiwan...Basically an extension China's most recent civil war.

        Nothing happened to me when I talked about Taiwan. People were curious to know what I though. I expressed myself tactfully. Usually they stfu'd after I told them I had been to Taiwan, and people there use their own laws, currency, etc etc.

        Now if I had gone on national tv in china (it is ridiculously easy these days for a westerner who speaks chinese) and called for Taiwan independence, well.. Maybe I would have been asked to leave... If I was Chinese, the result might be different- jail. :P
        • Hmm. Kind of funny. The Taiwanese that I have met here seem are interesting. A couple of Taiwan women that I know absolutely hates the mainland, but another guy claiming to be Taiwan, was wanting to take special equipment from here and see it to china for 10's of millions or more (even though it would hurt America). It would appear that it is a contentious issue amongst the Taiwanese.

          So, hopefully, you will feel like answering the question 1 more time. Do the majority of Chinese that you met feel that Ta
          • by fliptout (9217)
            I would say that all the mainland Chinese I talked to see Taiwan as part of China. Chinese people are barraged with one view on the topic through all their media, and I suppose even intelligent thought can be worn down that way. If you engage them in an argument, they tell you that Taiwan has been a part of China for thousands of years (they say the same thing about Tibet). It is a matter of national pride to the Communist party, because they did not decisively win the war for total control of China. Ther
            • Thanx for the info. It is always good to get differing viewpoints. I try to flip every so often through a couple of chinese [chinadaily.com.cn] news [xinhuanet.com] sites, but these are like reading Fox news or Pravda; You know that about half of it is gov. propaganda.
    • But that's the whole point, isn't it? It's the general population that the government is concerned about, not anyone who knows anything. Just like how our government is tickled pink that more people vote on American Idol than in our Presidential election...

      Anyway, the firewall is like DRM. It 'protects' the general public from seeing things they shouldn't, but it isn't really effective against anyone who knows anything.

    • You can pretty much speak about anything you want here in public, as long as it doesn't cover a few hot-button topics.

      "A few hot-button topics" such as the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, the freedom to migrate within the country, etc.?

      I tell you what, why don't you sell all your properties in the US, give up your US citizenship, and become a PRC citizen, and _then_ come back and tell us it's "very exaggerated."

      You can take photos and video anywhere.

      If you can read Chinese, read this news about

  • by 2Bits (167227) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:32AM (#20568687)

    If China's censorship system were a true firewall, most blocking would take place at the border with the rest of the Internet

    Well duh, the so-called firewall is certainly not the same firewall that everyone means, and the researchers should know better. The system was not setup to totally block/filter everything at the gate. Certain groups of users must be allowed to access all contents, regardless of political censorship at the time, this includes: foreigners living in China, certain government departments and agencies (some police departments, NSA-equivalent, CIA-equivalent, ...). For example, if you go to places where there is high concentration of foreigners living in China, especially in certain building, you can access everything, there is no blocking/filtering at all. For example, when there is any well-known, well-publicized international conference held in China, the whole block where the conference is held can have non-filtered access, especially in hotels where foreign guests are concentrated.

    The system is setup to allow contents in and out, but certain routes are blocked/filtered, while others are not. That's why you see some messages passed through several routers before being blocked. If the system was setup to block/filter everything at the gate, this would not be able to achieve.

  • by fuzheado (733418) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @04:34AM (#20568695) Homepage

    As someone who's written a lot about the GFW, I always remind people -- the Great Firewall only affects connections going into and out of China. For domestic traffic there is no firewall or filtering at the router level. There is another system for censorship of content on servers inside China -- good old fashioned licensing to be a "content provider" and local regulation. If you're operating inside the sovereign borders of the PRC, then there are other conventional means of controlling content, like telling your ISP to shut you down or serving your company legal notice.

    So it's a fallacy to talk about the Great Firewall as the most important part of the censorship system. The majority of folks in China are looking at entertainment content on servers inside China, and not trying to lookup the latest human rights abuses on foreign servers. Similarly, Americans are more interested in Britney Spears and the latest viral YouTube video than they are researching historical abuses of Native Americans.

    I'm writing this from a coffee shop in Beijing using their free Wifi (which is quite common). With all these sensitive words in the post, hope it makes it through. (Though I'm kind of tempting fate by hitting the Preview button repeatedly)

    • by makomk (752139)
      On the contrary, I reckon it's more important then you think, since it prevents people using blogging sites and the like in other countries that are outside the licensing and registration scheme. (For example, as I understand it LiveJournal is quite popular in Russia partly because it's a US site and therefore not controlled by the local oligarchs.)
    • by fliptout (9217)
      The last part is a bit silly. When have you ever had a slashdot post censored in china? :P
  • The amount of man and computing horsepower required to maintain a list of banned sites at the packet level would be enormous even for China, so an automated filter with a bit of rolling analysis would be logical. It probably even runs on a distributed squid farm, probably based at the ISPs rather than at the national peers, with updates issued from a central authority. The appearance of the cartoon policemen was a bit of a giveaway as they could really only be written into a web page by a proxy, and there a
    • by Kwirl (877607)
      Interesting statistic - if every chinese citizen spent one minute a day filtering content, that equals 2,515 manpower YEARS a day. Having 1,321,851,888 citizens and 1,185,000,000,000 dollars in cash reserves means they can probably afford to pay one or two people to do the job.
  • Now, it may not be an actual "Firewall" in the strictest sense but "The Great NetNanny of China" doesn't have the same ring. Like another poster said, it seems to work via reset packets. I'm not networking expert, I just know I get a lot of "connection reset" error messages.

    The problem with the Firewall isn't what it blocks, but it's HOW it blocks...the sporadic, chaotic nature. I've been here for two years. When I arrived, LiveJournal (which I was using to keep in touch with friends) was fine. In Octobe

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by anilg (961244)
      THANKS for sharing ALL that info with US. We will be SURE to remember ALL of this the NEXT time we talk about THE great firewall of CHINA,
    • The problem with the Firewall is that it exists.
      What it blocks is absolutely more important than how it blocks it.
  • "consumer product safety"
  • Of course the Great Firewall of China is a fraud. It cannot be otherwise. All filters are subject to alpha and beta error (false negatives and false positives). Tighten up on one and you blow the other.i(Spam fighters gotta learn). The firewall bureaucrats probably only need to show the other bureaucrats that they are making reasonable efforts.

    The test is also a fraud, or at least highly deceptive since the GFWoC or prior-restraint panopticon would be most highly tuned to outbound requests rather than

  • At least some sites here are "unreachable". One site I have was with a low-cost host who shares an IP for about 20 websites at a time. Middle last week, suddenly that site was unreachable from here in China. So With $20 plopped down, it now has a static dedicated IP. And is now reachable from China. I could get it with a proxy, but for my Chinese clients that was too much bother.

    The great firewall does exist, but it's more of a really tall speed bump, than a wall.

  • Big boxes full of used pinball machine parts?
  • pan-op-ti-con (Score:4, Informative)

    by mkiwi (585287) on Wednesday September 12, 2007 @09:30AM (#20571119)
    I had no idea what the heck this was so I looked it up. Here's the definition:

    panopticon (pan opti con)
    noun historical
    a circular prison with cells arranged around a central well, from which prisoners could at all times be observed.
    ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: from pan- [all] + Greek optikon, neuter of optikos 'optic.'

    Hope this helps some one :-)

  • and accessed the Internet in apartments, Internet cafes, universities, and at a Chinese company -- in Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, Chongqing, and Yichang. The following domains "had issues":

    blogspot [never worked]
    flickr [all images blocked]
    google [cache never worked, images worked sporadically]
    bbc [usually didn't work; once in a while it did]
    cnn [when accessed via RSS reader]

    other sites less important to me were blocked, but it's clear that the firewall is sporadic and certainly not thorough in suppressing an

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