New censorship on weibo

Back in October, we mentioned that weibo rolled out new semi-censorship. Apparently this is not enough. Now weibo has four different ways to censor keywords.

A. Explicit complete censorship

根据相关法律法规和政策,“[the blocked keyword]”搜索结果未予显示。

This translates into:

According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results for [the blocked keyword] can not be displayed.

Keyword example: 六四

Note: This is the good old way of censorship since the beginning of weibo.

B. Implicit complete censorship

抱歉,未找到“[the blocked keyword]”相关结果。

This translates into:

Sorry, no relevant results could be found for [the blocked keyword].

Keyword example: 江泽民

Note: This is a brand new form of censorship. Sina weibo used to admit what they censored. Now this message will also be shown to b keywords which actually have no results such as "dsfhadslfhadsljk".

C. Explicit semi-censorship

根据相关法律法规和政策,部分搜索结果未予显示。

This translates into:

According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, some of the search results can not be displayed.

Note: This method is employed around October as mentioned in the blog post.

D. Implicit semi-censorship

When you search for the keywords, only some selected results are returned. With a message at the button, stating

为了提供多样性结果,我们省略了部分相似微博,您可以点击查看全部搜索结果.。

This translates into:

In order to provide a diversity of results, we omitted some similar results. You could click here to view all results.

However, this message is shown to every keyword(except complete censored ones and those actually without any results). So you cannot determine the keyword is semi-censored from this message alone. When you click to view all results, sina weibo will append "&nodup=1" to the end of the search url. Now it will show the exact same message as b. Implicit complete censorship.

抱歉,未找到“[the blocked keyword]”相关结果。

This translates into:

Sorry, no relevant results could be found for [the blocked keyword].

Keyword example: 习近平

Note: This is a brand new way of censorship. It's really interesting to see how keywords are censored. For example, the censorship status of "习近平" went from a->not censored(?)->c->d->c. As I started to write this post, it was d, as I used web-archive to record it. When I'm writing this sentence 28 minutes later, however, it switched back to c. Another keyword "江泽民" went from a->b->a->b and stays at b. Our system could now detect censorship a, b(false positive of "dsfhadslfhadsljk" is inevitable), c. We might update our system to detect d if more keywords are censored this way in a prolonged time. Last but not least, this is merely censorship of searching on weibo. Much emphasis is also put on preventing users from posting sensitive weibo. Some keywords couldn't be posted on weibo in the first place, others will trigger a manual review by censors. Unfortunately, we haven't monitored that kind of censorship yet. But you could visit https://freeweibo.com/en to view recently censored posts on weibo.

Update: Now Sina has the 5th way of censoring keywords-7 day delay, please read Sina Weibo Enacts New "7 Day Delay" Function for Sensitive Terms Following 18th Party Congress for detail.

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Mon, Jan 26, 2015

An Open Letter to Lu Wei and the Cyberspace Administration of China

January 26, 2015

Beijing, China

 

Mr. Lu Wei

Director of the Cyberspace Administration of the People’s Republic of China 中央网络安全和信息化领导小组办公室主任

Director of the State Internet Information Office 国家互联网信息办公室主任

Deputy Director of the Central Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party 中共中央宣传部副部长

Cyberspace Administration of China,

Floor 1, Building 1,

Software Park, Chinese Academy of Sciences,

4 South 4th Street, Zhongguancun,

Beijing, China, 100190

 

Dear Mr. Lu,

On January 22, 2015, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), which is under your direct control, wrote a response to a story we published about an MITM attack on Microsoft. In the post, your colleague, Jiang Jun, labelled our accusations as "groundless" and  "unsupported speculation, a pure slanderous act by overseas anti-China forces".

We at GreatFire.org take great offense to these comments and we will refute them in this letter.

Mon, Jan 19, 2015

Outlook grim - Chinese authorities attack Microsoft

On January 17, we received reports that Microsoft’s email system, Outlook (which was merged with Hotmail in 2013), was subjected to a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack in China.

The following screenshot shows what happens when a Chinese user accesses Outlook via an email client (in this case, Ice-dove):

We have tested Outlook to verify the attack and have produced the same results. IMAP and SMTP for Outlook were under a MITM attack. Do note however that the web interfaces (https://outlook.com and https://login.live.com/ ) were not affected. The attack lasted for about a day and has now ceased.

This form of attack is especially devious because the warning messages users receive from their email clients are much less noticeable than the warning messages delivered to modern browsers (see screenshot at the end of this post for comparison).

(Sample error message from default iPhone mail client)

Fri, Jan 09, 2015

GFW upgrade fail - visitors to blocked sites redirected to porn

In the past, the Chinese authorities’ DNS poisoning system would direct Chinese internet users who were trying to access Facebook, Twitter and other blocked websites (without the use of a circumvention tool) to a set of fake IP addresses that are blocked in China or are non-existent. After waiting for some time, Chinese internet users would receive a timeout message if they were trying to access a blocked site.

However, with the new DNS poisoning system, in addition to those IP addresses used before, the Chinese authorities are using real IP addresses that actually host websites and are accessible in China. For example, https://support.dnspod.cn/Tools/tools/ shows that if a user tries to access Facebook from China, they might instead land on a random web page, e.g. http://178.62.75.99

Below is a screenshot by a Chinese user when he was trying to access our GreatFire.org website which was blocked in China. He was redirected to a goverment site in Korea. In essense, GFW is sending Chinese users to DDOS the Korea government's website.

One Chinese Internet user reported to us that when he tried to access Facebook in China, he was sent to a Russian website, unrelated to Facebook. Another user tweeted that he was redirected to an German adult site when he tried to access a website for a VPN.

某墙你这什么意思,DNS 污染返回给我一个德国工口站的 IP,满屏很黄很暴力弹弹弹(

— nil (@xierch) January 4, 2015

Wed, Dec 31, 2014

CNNIC leadership change coincides with blocking of Gmail

On December 26, 2014, in an announcement posted on their website, a new chairperson for CNNIC was directly appointed by the Cyberspace Administration of China. The announcement of this appointment coincided with the complete blocking of Gmail.

Cyberspace Administration of China (中央网信办) is chaired by Lu Wei, “China’s web doorkeeper”. Lu Wei is also the vice chair of the Central Propaganda Department, according to his official resume.

chair.png

This office is directly responsible for the blocking of Gmail and other websites including Facebook, Twitter and Google.

CNNIC is China’s certification authority and operates the country’s domain name registry. 

What are certificates used for?

Certificates are used primarily to verify the identity of a person or device, authenticate a service, or encrypt files. 

What is a certification authority (CA)?  

Tue, Dec 30, 2014

Gmail completely blocked in China

All Google products in China have been severely disrupted since June of this year and Chinese users have not been able to access Gmail via its web interface since the summer. However, email protocols such as IMAP, SMTP and POP3 had been accessible but are not anymore. These protocols are used in the default email app on iPhone, Microsoft Outlook on PC and many more email clients.

On December 26, GFW started to block large numbers of IP addresses used by Gmail. These IP addresses are used by IMAP/SMTP/POP3. Chinese users now have no way of accessing Gmail behind the GFW. Before, they could still send or receive emails via email clients even though Gmail's web interface was not accessible. 

Google's own traffic chart shows a sharp decline of Chinese traffic to Gmail. 

Below is a ping request to the Gmail SMTP server, which is completely inaccessible in China.

 

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