GreatFire Newsletter - April, 2012

April was an eventful month in China. Here's a summary of the most important Internet censorship news that we detected.

No major changes after Internet outage on April 12

There was an extraordinary Internet outage in China on April 12. Many reported that all foreign websites were unaccessible for about two hours. Our data confirms that several websites that are otherwise not blocked were not accessible, but interestingly other foreign websites were still available. For more info on what happened, check out our answer on Quora. Some people suggested that the authorities were trying out a new version of the Great Firewall, which would be more restrictive than before. Our data does not support this claim. As you can see in the first graph below, there has not been any major change in the number of major websites that are blocked in China. Furthermore, the second graph shows that foreign websites were actually faster to access in April than during previous months.

Loading chart..


Showing Alexa Top 500 websites blocked 50% or more of the time, per month. Source.

Loading chart..


Showing average download speed of Alexa Top 500 websites not hosted in China, per month. Source.

Google Drive and the ongoing Google vs CCP battle

Google Drive was launched on April 24. Within three days, it was blocked in China. This is similar to Google Plus which was launched on June 28 last year, and confirmed to be blocked since July 4. It is likely that the Great Firewall has a special team dedicated to monitoring and blocking new Google services. They are probably keen not to repeat the mistake of Google Mail which was left unblocked and, meanwhile, switched over to encrypted communications only (meaning that email content can't be intercepted). The authorites would probably like to block it. The only reason we can see that they don't is that they're afraid of the reactions because so many (especially educated, big-city people) are already using it.

Curiously, https://google.com was blocked on March 29 (and has been blocked before) but https://www.google.com is not blocked. The latter redirects users in China to http://www.google.com.hk (note the HTTP, as in not encrypted). Much more importantly, the encrypted Hong Kong version of Google at https://www.google.com.hk remains unblocked. While not on by default, it does allow Chinese users to search for any of the hundreds of keywords that are otherwise blocked. 

https://code.google.com was blocked on March 29 and has stayed that way, though the unencrypted version remains accessible (http://code.google.com). The same thing happened to the encrypted version of Google Maps (https://maps.google.com) - the unencrypted version also remains (http://maps.google.com).

Several previously unblocked keywords were blocked on Google Search. These include google: 九长老 - a reference to the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, google: 政变 - meaning coup d'état, google: 共匪 - meaning communist bandit, and google: 滤霸, 驴爸 which was unblocked again on April 27.

YouTube fully blocked again

The encrypted version of YouTube - https://www.youtube.com - was accessible in China for several days in March. Since March 29, though, it has been fully blocked again, suggesting that the Great Firewall is now better at blocking encrypted websites. HTTPS makes online censorship more difficult in that intercepting network devices don't know what the web traffic is. So while a web request to http://www.youtube.com can be blocked simply by detecting that the user is trying to access a blacklisted URL, a request to https://www.youtube.com can only be hindered by either blocking the IP address of the server or by DNS poisoning the domain lookup. The former is difficult because IP addresses tend to change over time, and the latter is imperfect because it's decentralized and easier to get around than other forms of censorship. For example, the encrypted YouTube URL was tested eight times during April. Five different IP addresses were returned on the different test occasions. Only on three of the occasions was a completely different IP address returned (suggesting DNS Poisoning). On all eight test ocassions though, the website was blocked. This suggests that the Great Firewall is now either blocking ranges of IP addresses, or continuously monitoring changes in IP addresses and blocking them accordingly.

Blocked and unblocked on Sina Weibo

weibo: 王立军, the former Chongqing police chief who triggered the biggest political scandal in China in many years, was blocked on or before April 10 (but was not blocked on April 3). As part of the same scandal, weibo: heywood was blocked on or before April 14. weibo: 薄熙来 himself was blocked on or before April 10.

Other keywords were unblocked. weibo: 蔡赴朝, the name of a CCP politican, was unblocked on or before April 21. weibo: 女同 - lesbian - was unblocked on or before April 7.

You can lookup and test any keyword for censorship on Sina Weibo here. Also much recommended are BlockedOnWeibo, a blog which publishes frequent news on keywords blocked on Weibo, and WeiboScope, a database of deleted Weibo posts.

Other major Weibo news of April is that Sina is still avoiding fully implementing real-name registration requirements and that Sina as well as Tencent Weibo turned off commenting for three days starting on March 31.

Other notable changes

The English en.wikipedia: Huang_Qi entry (a currently imprisoned human-rights activist) was blocked all of April, and then unblocked again in early May.

http://www.paypal.com was inaccessible on a couple of occasions in April and is consistently very slow in China.

http://www.ameblo.jp was unblocked in March and stayed unblocked throughout April.

http://www.netflix.com was blocked on March 26 and has stayed blocked since.

http://www.isohunt.com was blocked on April 4 and has stayed blocked since.

http://cn.uncyclopedia.wikia.com - A Chinese-language wiki - was blocked on April 9 and has stayed blocked since.

http://www.bigpoint.com - a gaming website - was unblocked at the end of March and has stayed accessible since.

http://www.kony2012.com - a campaign website - was partially blocked already in March and fully blocked throughout April.

http://www.sinocism.com - a blog covering news in China - was blocked at the end of March and has stayed blocked since.

GreatFire announces FanQiang@GreatFire.org

There are many ways to get around the Great Firewall of China: VPNs, proxies, Tor etc. Some of them cost money and some are free. They are all bound to be unreliable though because they depend on a server used to tunnel the web traffic in order to circumvent the censorship. If the IP address of the server being used is blocked, the service ceases to work. It can be fixed of course, by changing to another server, but meanwhile you may find yourself without any means of accessing blocked websites. Until now.

FanQiang@GreatFire.org is a circumvention tool that is very difficult to block. This is because it relies on email and not HTTP traffic. All you need to do is to send an email to FanQiang@GreatFire.org and enter the URL of the website that you want to view as the email subject. Within a few seconds (sometimes longer) you will receive a PDF version of the website.

For example, create a new email with the subject http://boxun.com and send it off to FanQiang@GreatFire.org. You will receive an updated PDF copy of that website - blocked in China - shortly thereafter.

It's not a perfect solution by any means. You can't log in to websites, such as Facebook, and you can't view videos. However, for those times when you simply want to view a blocked website and you have no other means, it's very convenient. All you need to remember is FanQiang@GreatFire.org.

Can you help us translate content into Chinese?

We are creating a Chinese version of GreatFire.org and we depend on volunteers to translate our content. Can you help out? Or do you know someone that can? Please contact us on greatfire@greatfire.org .

Comments

More Blog Posts

Subscribe to our mailing list
Show content from Blog | Google+ | Twitter | All. Subscribe to our blog using RSS.

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.

Thu, Nov 24, 2016

Facebook: Please, not like this

Facebook is considering launching a censorship tool that would enable the world’s biggest social network to “enter” the China market. Sadly, nobody will be surprised by anything that Mark Zuckerberg decides to do in order to enter the China market. With such low expectations, Facebook is poised to usurp Apple as China’s favorite foreign intelligence gathering partner. If the company launches in China using this strategy they will also successfully erase any bargaining power that other media organizations may hold with the Chinese authorities.

Tue, Jul 05, 2016

GreatFire.org 现在开始测试VPN在中国的速度和稳定性

在中国有一个普遍观念,如果你有一个可以使用的VPN,那么你应该保持沉默。就信息自由而言,这种观念的问题在于获取知识竟成了一种秘密。今天,我们推出一个项目,希望能够摧毁这种模型。

我们最新的网站,翻墙中心,目的在于实时提供那些能够在中国使用的翻墙方案的信息和数据。在2011年以来我们就已经开始收集在中国被屏蔽的网站,现在我们也将增加那些可用的VPN和其他翻墙工具。

我们发布翻墙中心主要有四个目的。

我们的首要目标是助长使用翻墙工具的国人的数量。通过分享我们这些工具的信息和数据,我们希望对更广泛的受众展示那些工具时可以使用的。

我们的第二个目标是通过带来工具性能的透明化来提升中国用户的翻墙体验。我们将会测试工具的速度(流行网站的加载速度)和稳定性(流行网站加载成功的程度)。

我们开发速度测试的目的是要真实反映用户的体验。当用户在网站测速时,浏览器在后台会从10个世界上最流行的网站上下载一些资源文件。根据Alexa排名,这些网站分别是Google, Facebook, YouTube, Baidu, Amazon, Yahoo, Wikipedia, QQ, Twitter and Microsoft Live。速度的结果是简单的计算下载文件文件的大小和下载所需的时间。我们同样也会验证下载的文件是否完整。如果文件的内容是错误的或者在40秒内无法完成下载,我们会标记为失败。这个数据被我们用来生成另一个重要指标-稳定性。

其他的速度测试工具仅仅是通过发送数据到它们自己的服务器来测量上传和下载的速度。这种数据无法反应用户的体验,因为正常的浏览器通常会频繁的发送一系列的请求(而不是上传或下载一个大文件)到许多的服务器,而不止是一个。

我们的第二个指标 - 稳定性 - 是其他的服务通常不会测试的。一个健康的互联网连接应该达到100%的稳定性,除非有人在测试中把网线拔了。但是在中国使用翻墙工具却不是这样。任何时候连接都有可能变得不稳定或十分缓慢。根据请求的大小,最终的地点和代理的方式,一些请求有可能会失败。比较服务的稳定性要比比较速度更加重要。

你可以测试任意的翻墙工具,列表之外的也可以。中国的VPN用户也可以测试他们的工具,测试结果也会添加到数据库中。这些数据都将会对所有人开放。实时的在中国测试是非常重要的,因为VPN随时都可能被封锁或解封。我们欢迎任何的关于测试过程的反馈。有技术能力的用户也可以通过审查我们的javascript代码来获悉我们的测试是如何工作的。

我们郑重的邀请翻墙工具的开发者们向我们提供测试过程的反馈。我们的第三个目标是帮助这些开发人员改进他们的产品,让更多的选择适用于中国的顾客。此外,越多的工具可以工作,就意味着中国当局对翻墙的打击就会越难。

中国的用户都知道,在过去的18个月中当局加紧了对翻墙工具的攻击。而翻墙中心将会吹响反击的号角。反其道而行之,让这不再成为秘密。我们要鼓励人们分享翻墙工具可以工作的信息。

我们的第四个目标就是要为GreatFire.org创造收益。目前GreatFire仍然依靠世界各地的热心人士和组织的捐款。我们希望减少对这些机构的依赖,并探寻GreatFire.org自给自足的道路。用户只需到翻墙中心就能购买任意一款我们目前在测试的付费工具。GreatFire将作为这些工具在中国的经销商,因此VPN供应商会给予我们每个零售的一部分。用户也不必在中国购买这些翻墙服务。

Subscribe to our blog using RSS.

Comments

this post is awesome, great msg for us, plz update ur blog for daily basis, i am regular visitor of this site, so keep posting for us,

click the below links to create backlink
best free backlink website
click here for msg movie

For most up-to-date information you have to visit the
web and on web I found this web site as a finest site for hottest updates.

I have to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this website.
I'm hoping to view the same high-grade content from you in the future as well.

In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my very own blog now ;)

Here is my blog post - server asset management

Côté utilisation, la yaourtiere orva permet d'avoir une planning parfaite en utilisant la minuterie
digitale.

Visit my blog post website

Understanding both advantages and disadvantages are important in order to
choose the best internet marketing strategy. The says of free proxies and tunnelling services are over, and as the Chinese
government begins to tighten its grip on what comes in and out of the country informationally
speaking, the need for a vpn to bypass internet censorship in China
grows every day. Make certain that the payment gateway
you are making use of, permits similar languages as the remaining of the web pages so that they can match well together.

Feel free to visit my homepage ... jewish publishing

It's the best time to make some plans for the longer term and it's time to be happy.

I've read this submit and if I may I wish to counsel you some attention-grabbing things or tips.
Maybe you can write subsequent articles relating to this article.

I wish to learn even more things about it!

Have a look at my web page; true cleanse reviews

Along while using benefits it also involves some risks so what can be threatening if not taken care in time.
The an opposing side to this is that you yourself have to become in fairly a good credit rating
standing to become part of a credit union, or at the
very least to take advantage with their generally fair and affordable mortgages
and also other online title loans.

Muy chula esta entrada, aprovecho para felicitaros por esta página, que os he encontrado por internet y me parecen todos los contenidos muy interesantes =)

Feel free to visit my web blog ... pegatinas personalizadas

Pages

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.