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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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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