GreatFirewall.biz blocked by, ehem, the Great Firewall

Dear reader. I know something about you. You are either not in the People's Republic of China - or you are using a VPN or proxy to bypass the Great Firewall. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this. Since yesterday, this website has been added to the list of websites blocked in China. As you can see to the right, other websites with information about the Great Firewall are blocked too.

Why, oh why?

Chinese people don't need this website to test whether a website is blocked or not - they can simply type in a URL or search and if it's blocked, the connection will be reset or timeout. Or do they? When a website doesn't work, it could be because it's blocked, but it could also be caused by the website itself. How can you tell the difference? You can connect your VPN and try again - or, you can test it on this website. A website is only marked as blocked by us if it 1) works when accessed from the US and 2) does not work when accessed from China.

Take, for example, the current difficulties of accessing Gmail in China. Our monitoring shows that this is caused by the Great Firewall - but the government has denied this and seem to want people to think that the problem lies with Google. Isaac Mao, a Chinese blogger, commented that the government is "testing the tolerance of the people" adding that "they cannot block Gmail totally, at this moment, because millions of people are using Gmail. If it is found that the government did this, people will react even more".

Indeed. So the government is doing what it can to prevent people from finding out.

One of the oddest rumours out there is that Gmail isn't working because the servers are located in earthquake-hit Japan...

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Wed, Mar 19, 2014

Bing Bests Baidu Censorship

Abstract

Independent research from Xia Chu has shown that, in addition to non-China content, Bing censors a vast amount of content that is hosted inside China and which is not censored by China-based internet companies like Baidu. After communicating our issues with Microsoft, Bing removed certain censorship rules (kudos to Bing), but much work remains to be done.

We recently called for Microsoft to release its transparency report for Bing (as have others - full disclosure, Rebecca sits on our advisory board).  Microsoft has yet to respond to this request. But Xia’s independent research of Bing’s China censorship policy could be regarded as a de facto transparency report for the search engine.

In this thorough study, the results of which we have verified, Xia examined Bing's SERP (search engine results page) for over 30,000 sensitive and nonsensitive query terms, and launched these queries from both inside and outside of China. Comparing and examining these results, plus querying with special search operators, reveals unprecedented detail on Bing's China filtering practices.

The main findings from Xia’s research include:

  • Bing has a list of “forbidden” terms where no results are shown. 139 such terms have been identified.

  • Bing has a blacklist of websites that it never shows to China users. 329 such websites are identified. (5 have been lifted after our communication with Microsoft.)

Thu, Feb 13, 2014

Setting Bing's Broken Record Straight

We can also now trace complicit Bing Chinese censorship back to 2009 as highlighted by Nicholas Kristof. It looks like Microsoft has indeed changed its censorship mechanism after our research made headlines this week. But Bing is still seriously flawed on two fronts: its algorithm favors pro-Chinese government websites by default on all search terms in simplified Chinese and their front end mistakenly delivers explicit censorship of search results on some search terms for users from all over the world.

Wed, Feb 12, 2014

No error here: Microsoft deploying Chinese censorship on global scale

Microsoft says: “The results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China”. This is simply not true.

Tue, Feb 11, 2014

Bing practicing Chinese censorship globally

Our latest research indicates that Microsoft’s search engine Bing is censoring English and Chinese language search on its home page in order to exclude certain results. We have also noticed that Bing is practicing subtle censorship with search results. In both instances, Bing is filtering out links and stories that the Chinese authorities would deem damaging.

Thu, Jan 23, 2014

Massive blocking of foreign media in China

After Tuesday’s report Leaked Records Reveal Offshore Holdings of China’s Elite by ICIJ, China blocked a number of major newspaper websites. All websites below were blocked after publishing copies of the original report. They're all listed as the publishing partners for “Chinaleaks” stories on ICIJ's website. The Great Firewall rarely blocks non-Chinese websites. Many of them have published the Chinese version of the report which probably explains the unusual development.

Newspaper

Main Language

Article

http://www.icij.org

English

Chinese

http://www.theguardian.com

English

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Our own tests, linked in the Related list top right on this page, confirm that this website has been unblocked in China. Yay, we're open for business again!

We were unblocked for three days, now blocked again..

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