Surfing the Internet in China slower on Sundays

Browsing websites is often a slow and frustrating experience in China. Apart from blocking over 2600 websites and searches, the Great Firewall also imposes a serious bottleneck on speed. There have been rumors that the Internet is especially slow on Sundays. Analyzing more than 80,000 tests executed by our system from March to November this year, our data seems to confirm this suspicion.

The tests consist of downloading the front page of each of the world's 500 most popular websites, as defined by Alexa. Apart from aberrations in March and June, download speeds on Sundays have consistently been between 8 and 25% slower than the average of the other days of the week. Here's the full test data summary (all speeds in bytes/second):

MonthMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySundaySunday relative to other daysNumber of tests
Mar, 201122,89823,00726,17825,56025,35623,96827,35312%11,032
Apr, 201130,36533,64029,14133,20632,96929,68927,953-11%17,775
May, 201132,69128,67636,20130,09229,45529,13025,814-17%5,889
Jun, 201121,66332,22730,50729,73628,43428,37728,8121%5,946
Jul, 201117,71928,35224,86820,98721,95522,25017,089-25%7,621
Aug, 201122,46021,47221,51620,85923,23520,24119,980-8%12,499
Sep, 201124,48522,97821,82422,17222,34519,04517,906-19%12,671
Oct, 201125,36921,41423,17222,82722,89222,57218,473-20%14,213
Nov, 201127,00024,04428,63825,64024,91025,80923,984-8%9,233
AVERAGE24,96126,20126,89425,67625,72824,56523,040-10% 

One theory why the internet would be even more restricted on Sundays is that this was the weekday chosen for the attempted Jasmine protests earlier this year. Another theory could point to Sunday being a prime day for internet users across the country to download music and movie files or to consume online media, which would explain why Saturday is the second slowest day of the week. Also, the authorities might prioritize speed on weekdays in order to allow companies somewhat better Internet access.

It is also important to note that the internet has been getting slower compared to speeds earlier this year.

Have you also experienced the slow Sunday phenomenon? Please add your comments below.

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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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Comments

I'm wondering whether you have any data on whether it has become slower to access Chinese websites from outside of China over the past year or so. I live outside of China and it has become painfully slow for me to stream videos from Chinese video-sharing sites like Tudou and Youku. Even sites like Baidu Baike and Baidu Tieba, which are mostly text with images, have become somewhat laggy. I've been wondering whether the problem lies on my end (e.g. with my ISP) or if it's part of a wider pattern.

Hi Blaise. The GFW works both ways. Accessing Chinese websites from abroad is artificially slow, just as accessing foreign websites from China is. Exactly how much slower I can't say. But we do have the data, since all URLs tested by our system are tested both from China and from the US. So it's just a matter of collecting it and creating a graph. On the to-do list. Great question!

Thanks for the reply! That's interesting to hear.

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