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. [email protected].

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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Tue, Mar 31, 2015

Chinese authorities compromise millions in cyberattacks

The Great Firewall has switched from being a passive, inbound filter to being an active and aggressive outbound one. This is a frightening development and the implications of this action extend beyond control of information on the internet. In one quick movement, the authorities have shifted from enforcing strict censorship in China to enforcing Chinese censorship on internet users worldwide.

Fri, Mar 27, 2015

CNNIC censored Google and Mozilla’s posts about CNNIC CA

This week, Google found unauthorized digital certificates for several Google domains, the root CA of which is CNNIC. Google and Mozilla both publicly disclosed this security incident and published blog posts(Google, Mozilla). However, Chinese translations of Google’s and Mozilla's blog posts were censored on the Chinese Internet.

  • William Long is a prominent Chinese blogger on IT and tech. He translated Google’s security post without adding any personal opinions. The Chinese blogpost ranked #1 when searching CNNIC MITM in Chinese on Google and Baidu. He tweeted that he received a phone call from propaganda department demanding the post to be removed immediately. The post http://www.williamlong.info/archives/4183.html was deleted. Google cache is still available.

Wed, Mar 25, 2015

Evidence shows CNNIC and CAC behind MITM attacks

Since 2013, we have repeatedly called on major software vendors to revoke CNNIC-issued certificates. Most notably, we raised this issue when we reported on the Cyberspace Administration of China’s (CAC) man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks on Google, Microsoft’s Outlook, Apple, Yahoo and Github. Mainstream media have reported about these security vulnerabilities before and on March 24, Ars Technica reported on Google’s announcement that they have definitive evidence that CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center) was behind a new MITM attack on Google.

From our October, 2014 blog post:

Thu, Mar 19, 2015

We are under attack

We are under attack and we need help.

Likely in response to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), we’ve experienced our first ever distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. This tactic is used to bring down web pages by flooding them with lots of requests - at the time of writing they number 2.6 billion requests per hour. Websites are not equipped to handle that kind of volume so they usually “break” and go offline.

This kind of attack is aggressive and is an exhibition of censorship by brute force. Attackers resort to tactics like this when they are left with no other options.

We are not equipped to handle a DDoS attack of this magnitude and we need help. Some background:

  • The attack started on March 17 and we are receiving up to 2.6 billion requests per hour which is about 2500 times more than normal levels.

Thu, Mar 12, 2015

Collateral Freedom and the not-so-Great Firewall

Recognizing that the authorities have been hesitant to crackdown on our method of circumvention, we have accelerated our expansion of the development of collateral freedom, in three key areas.
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