GreatFire August: New York Times Articles Blocked

Many Blocked New York Times Articles

The Chinese edition of the New York Times - http://cn.nytimes.com - is not blocked. However, numerous individual articles are. We are now automatically importing all articles in their China section into our system for testing. You can view them all here. It does not seem that URLs are blocked based on keywords. For example http://cn.nytimes.com/article/china/2012/07/10/c10wang is blocked whereas http://cn.nytimes.com/article/china/2012/08/18/c18wang is not. This suggests that the authorities are manually reviewing each article to decide whether it should be allowed or blocked.

New Blocked Keywords

These keywords were not blocked in China before August 2012. From sometime in August and onwards, they have all been blocked. Many of them are variants of 胡 as in 胡锦涛 (Hu Jintao, the current president of China who is expected to hand over power to his successor this year).

  1. google: 绿爸爸
  2. google: 绿坝娘
  3. google: 军队国家化
  4. google: 赛风
  5. google: psiphon
  6. weibo: 小胡
  7. weibo: 王安顺
  8. weibo: 胡总看到女兵
  9. weibo: 胡恩
  10. weibo: 胡曾结盟
  11. weibo: 胡达拜尔地
  12. weibo: 胡雯靖
  13. weibo: 胡雯靖
  14. weibo: 无网界浏览

Unblocked Keywords

These keywords were all blocked in China before August 2012. From sometime in August and onwards, they have all been unblocked. They include the Wikipedia articles about Boxun and Twitter which are now accessible in China; the websites they refer to (http://boxun.com and http://twitter.com) are still fully blocked though. It is interesting to note that 天线宝宝 (the Chinese translation for the popular children's television show "Teletubbies") was unblocked.  Some Chinese use 天线宝宝 to refer 温家宝, the current Premier of China. Perhaps this is a concession to the start of the school year?

  1. google: tyanmen
  2. en.wikipedia: Boxun.com
  3. zh.wikipedia: Twitter
  4. weibo: 仁怀
  5. weibo: 代理服务器
  6. weibo: 功法
  7. weibo: 北京 死亡
  8. weibo: 启东
  9. weibo: 天线宝宝
  10. weibo: 市长
  11. weibo: 布局
  12. weibo: 死亡人数
  13. weibo: 薄格
  14. weibo: 近平
  15. weibo: 通报

More On Game Censorship

Last month, we detected that some games were added as restricted words on Weibo and Taobao. Recently it was reported that adapting online games as TV shows is forbidden. This is just one of six rules that the State Administration of Radio Film and Television published this month.

Xinhuanet

Xinhuanet is the English translation of 新华社, the official press agency of China and is now blocked on Weibo weibo: xinhuanet and has stayed blocked since. It was blocked on Google google: xinhuanet on Aug 13th and unblocked shortly after. This suggests that this is a government decision rather than self-censorship imposed by Sina. The English version of Xinhuanet http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/ has much looser censorship compared to the Chinese version http://www.xinhuanet.com.

Google And Baidu

The IP http://74.125.71.132 of http://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com, which is the Gmail attachment server, was blocked at the begining of this month. If an email with an attachment was opened in China, Gmail will show an "Attachments might be unavailable" message.  However http://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com was unblocked at the end of this month because the server IP was changed to http://74.125.128.132 . Many Chinese use Gmail to get around Internet censorship because email providers in China will filter email when restricted words are detected, e.g. get@psiphon3.com.

https://encrypted.google.com was not DNS poisoned during a short interval on August 29. However,  visitors in China still could not use it because Google would redirect them to encrypted.google.com.hk which doesn't exist. We'll determine whether this redirection is for Mainland China only.

On August 23, netizens in Fujian province found that www.baidu.com was redirected to google. It was suspected that the DNS in Fujian was hijacked during that time.

Baidu started to block other search engines from accessing its data.

Censorship On Websites Inside China

http://Solidot.org , the Chinese version of http://slashdot.org, has been posting many stories about Internet censorship. Off-shore websites would be blocked for much less mention of this subject. It's a wonder that Solidot, whose servers are located in Beijing and therefore cannot be blocked, have not been forcefully taken down. They continue to post news about censorship. Posts on other Chinese media such as Sina and Nandu Daily have been taken down for much milder violations.

http://www.vpn123.com, a China based VPN provider (with web servers in Hong Kong) sells both a Chinese VPN and an off-shore VPN which could be used to circumvent the Great Firewall of China. It is both keyword filtered and DNS poisoned. Interestingly, http://www.ffvpn.com, a mirror of vpn123 on Chinese servers has been in operation since March of this year and not been taken down.

Censorship of P2P software

It was reported that the Great Firewall of China (GFW) has started to block Protocol Obfuscation connections to central servers of Emule to force plain-text connections to central servers. This now allows the GFW the ability to censor according to keywords.

Other

Several, very different, websites were blocked/unblocked in August. Chinese netizens can no longer read Western celebrity gossip at http://tmz.com (blocked), but they can check out foreign video clips at http://metacafe.com (unblocked) . Lastly, the German site http://gutefrage.net was unblocked in August.

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Mon, Jun 10, 2019

Apple Censoring Tibetan Information in China

Apple has a long history of censorship when it comes to information about Tibet. In 2009, it was revealed that several apps related to the Dalai Lama were not available in the China App Store. The developers of these apps were not notified that their apps were removed. When confronted with these instances of censorship, an Apple spokesperson simply said that the company “continues to comply with local laws”.

In December, 2017, at a conference in China, when asked about working with the Chinese authorities to censor the Apple App Store, Tim Cook proclaimed:

"Your choice is: do you participate, or do you stand on the sideline and yell at how things should be. And my own view very strongly is you show up and you participate, you get in the arena because nothing ever changes from the sideline."

In the ten years since Apple was first criticized for working with the Chinese authorities to silence already marginalized voices, what has changed? Apple continues to strictly follow the censorship orders of the Chinese authorities. When does Tim Cook expect that his company will help to bring about positive change in China?

Based on data generated from https://applecensorship.com, Apple has now censored 29 popular Tibetan mobile applications in the China App Store. Tibetan-themed apps dealing with news, religious study, tourism, and even games are being censored by Apple. A full list of the censored apps appear below.

Thu, Jun 06, 2019

Report Shines Spotlight on Apple’s Censorship Practices in China

The newest Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index makes recommendations on what companies and governments need to do in order to improve the protection of internet users’ human rights around the world. Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) works to promote freedom of expression and privacy on the internet by creating global standards and incentives for companies to respect and protect users’ rights.

In their 2019 Accountability Index, RDR looks at the policies of 24 of the world’s most important internet companies in respect to freedom of expression and privacy and highlights the companies that have made improvements and those companies that need to do more. RDR notes that:

Insufficient transparency makes it easier for private parties, governments, and companies themselves to abuse their power over online speech and avoid accountability.

In particular, the report highlights how Apple has abused their power over online speech, and notes instances of this in China. According to the report, Apple has not disclosed data around the content that it removes from its App Store when faced with requests from the government authorities.

While [Apple] disclosed data about government requests to restrict accounts, it disclosed no data about content removal requests, such as requests to remove apps from its App Store. Apple revealed little about policies and practices affecting freedom of expression, scoring below all other U.S. companies in this category.

The report makes intelligent and sensible recommendations for governments. However, the recommendations also highlight how difficult it is to have these discussions with governments like China’s.

Thu, Nov 30, 2017

About those 674 apps that Apple censored in China

Apple opened the door on its censorship practices in China - but just a crack.

Tue, May 23, 2017

Is China establishing cyber sovereignty in the United States?

Last week Twitter came under attack from a DDoS attack orchestrated by the Chinese authorities. While such attacks are not uncommon for websites like Twitter, this one proved unusual. While the Chinese authorities use the Great Firewall to block harmful content from reaching its citizens, it now uses DDoS attacks to take down content that appears on websites beyond its borders. For the Chinese authorities, it is not simply good enough to “protect” the interests of Chinese citizens at home - in their view of cyber sovereignty, any content that might harm China’s interests must be removed, regardless of where the website is located.

And so last week the Chinese authorities determined that Twitter was the target. In particular, the authorities targeted the Twitter account for Guo Wengui (https://twitter.com/KwokMiles), the rebel billionaire who is slowly leaking information about corrupt Chinese government officials via his Twitter account and through his YouTube videos. Guo appeared to ramp up his whistle-blowing efforts last week and the Chinese authorities, in turn, ramped up theirs.

via https://twitter.com/KwokMiles/status/863689935798374401

Mon, Dec 12, 2016

China is the obstacle to Google’s plan to end internet censorship

It’s been three years since Eric Schmidt proclaimed that Google would chart a course to ending online censorship within ten years. Now is a great time to check on Google’s progress, reassess the landscape, benchmark Google’s efforts against others who share the same goal, postulate on the China strategy and offer suggestions on how they might effectively move forward.

flowers on google china plaque

Flowers left outside Google China’s headquarters after its announcement it might leave the country in 2010. Photo: Wikicommons.

What has Google accomplished since November 2013?

The first thing they have accomplished is an entire rebranding of both Google (now Alphabet) and Google Ideas (now Jigsaw). Throughout this blog post, reference is made to both new and old company names.

Google has started to develop two main tools which they believe can help in the fight against censorship. Jigsaw’s DDoS protection service, Project Shield, is effectively preventing censorship-inspired DDoS attacks and recently helped to repel an attack on Brian Krebs’ blog. The service is similar to other anti-DDoS services developed by internet freedom champions and for-profit services like Cloudflare.

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