Look Ma! I can see through the great firewall!

Today we have decided to take the battle against online censorship in China to a new level.

On Friday, November 15, we broke the news that the websites for Reuters Chinese and Chinese Wall Street Journal were both blocked in China. Tests on our servers confirmed those blocks. 

It appears that the block is related to the New York Times story published on November 14 concerning the relationship between JPMorgan Chase and Lily Chang (also known as Wen Ruchun), the daughter of former Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao.

Reuters Chinese published news about the story on November 14, which is probably the reason the site was blocked.

In response to this block, we have just launched a mirror site for Reuters China, which is accessible here:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/cn.reuters/index.html

This website is accessible from within China without the use of any circumvention tools. 

PLEASE NOTE: We have created this mirror website without seeking the approval of Reuters ahead of time. This mirror website was created without Reuters’ knowledge. If Reuters ask us to remove this website, we will do so immediately.

We have already used this method or mirroring for our own blocked website, FreeWeibo.com:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/freeweibo/index.html

FreeWeibo shows weibo content that has been blocked by Sina and the Chinese government. Our official domain has long been blocked in China. Despite the block, we still have more than 15,000 visitors each day, a majority of which are using Internet circumvention software to get around the great firewall (GFW) of China.

We want to provide internet users in China with unrestricted information access. Internet circumvention software is for the most part stable in China but one needs to have some technical savvy for configuration.

With our new mirror sites, the GFW cannot block FreeWeibo.com any longer without causing significant collateral damage which would also cause significant economic fallout in China.

Our mirror sites are unique because rather than using our own domains, we use a subpath of Amazon and Google’s domains which support HTTPS access. This means that GFW cannot block our mirror websites without blocking the domain of Amazon or Google entirely, namely “s3.amazonaws.com” and “commondatastorage.googleapis.com”.

GFW might indeed go ahead and block these domains but it would risk considerable negative backlash and may cause problems economically for organizations within China that rely on these services. In January 2013, China blocked Github supposedly for having sensitive content. But the block created a fierce outcry in the Chinese developer community. Subsequently, the authorities backed down and stopped blocking the domain.

Our mirror site is not perfect! There are a few minor bugs in what we have created. However, we wanted to quickly put this together so that we could fire a shot across the bow of the Chinese censorship mothership.

The reason why we chose to mirror the Reuters Chinese web site was to show the authorities and Chinese internet users that there are holes in the great firewall. To plug this hole, the Chinese authorities have two options. They can block the Amazon and Google domains, thereby bringing down thousands of websites in China that rely on these web services. This will bring the issue of online censorship to a very large group of people in China. The other option is to force Amazon or Google to remove our sites willingly.  We have previously reported that Apple willingly remove OpenDoor, an Internet circumvention tool, from the China App store and this week there were reports about self-censorship at Bloomberg.  We hope Amazon or Google will not practice the same kind of self-censorship.

There is a third option. Mr. Xi Jinping, we hope you are listening. Just let this episode slide. Pretend it did not happen. Do nothing to stop this. Or, better yet, lift the block on these two websites and the hundreds of others. Do it in one swift movement. You will catch everybody off guard. And you will create your own lasting legacy as a true reformer.

We have participated in OpenITP’s report “Collateral Freedom: A Snapshot of Chinese Users Circumventing Censorship” and we fully agree with their conclusion:

The essence of the Internet freedom debate in China is segmentation, not blocking. When crucial business activity is inseparable from Internet freedom, the prospects for Internet freedom improve.

...

But, we would argue, a healthier response might move in the opposite direction, toward even greater integration between Internet freedom and business. Rather than working with particular online platforms, which may be individually vulnerable to censorship, the best long term answer might be to move anti-censorship deeper into the network infrastructure, incorporating it within the systems that large network operators use to exchange their traffic. Ideally, we might aim for a situation in which secure web access generally (rather than access to any particular platform) is inseparable from Internet freedom.

 

 

 

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Mon, Jun 10, 2019

Apple Censoring Tibetan Information in China

Apple has a long history of censorship when it comes to information about Tibet. In 2009, it was revealed that several apps related to the Dalai Lama were not available in the China App Store. The developers of these apps were not notified that their apps were removed. When confronted with these instances of censorship, an Apple spokesperson simply said that the company “continues to comply with local laws”.

In December, 2017, at a conference in China, when asked about working with the Chinese authorities to censor the Apple App Store, Tim Cook proclaimed:

"Your choice is: do you participate, or do you stand on the sideline and yell at how things should be. And my own view very strongly is you show up and you participate, you get in the arena because nothing ever changes from the sideline."

In the ten years since Apple was first criticized for working with the Chinese authorities to silence already marginalized voices, what has changed? Apple continues to strictly follow the censorship orders of the Chinese authorities. When does Tim Cook expect that his company will help to bring about positive change in China?

Based on data generated from https://applecensorship.com, Apple has now censored 29 popular Tibetan mobile applications in the China App Store. Tibetan-themed apps dealing with news, religious study, tourism, and even games are being censored by Apple. A full list of the censored apps appear below.

Thu, Jun 06, 2019

Report Shines Spotlight on Apple’s Censorship Practices in China

The newest Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index makes recommendations on what companies and governments need to do in order to improve the protection of internet users’ human rights around the world. Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) works to promote freedom of expression and privacy on the internet by creating global standards and incentives for companies to respect and protect users’ rights.

In their 2019 Accountability Index, RDR looks at the policies of 24 of the world’s most important internet companies in respect to freedom of expression and privacy and highlights the companies that have made improvements and those companies that need to do more. RDR notes that:

Insufficient transparency makes it easier for private parties, governments, and companies themselves to abuse their power over online speech and avoid accountability.

In particular, the report highlights how Apple has abused their power over online speech, and notes instances of this in China. According to the report, Apple has not disclosed data around the content that it removes from its App Store when faced with requests from the government authorities.

While [Apple] disclosed data about government requests to restrict accounts, it disclosed no data about content removal requests, such as requests to remove apps from its App Store. Apple revealed little about policies and practices affecting freedom of expression, scoring below all other U.S. companies in this category.

The report makes intelligent and sensible recommendations for governments. However, the recommendations also highlight how difficult it is to have these discussions with governments like China’s.

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.

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Significant economic fallout ? Wow, who told you that? Given the current circumstances, any one who cares about reliability in mainland china will choose not to use AWS or GCS, for the exact reason of not taking the risk that these will be blocked.
I think what you are doing is not helping but instead another reason for GFW to block these services. Google and Amazon would suffer more.

You can also make a downloadable offline mirror version of any website. I don't think GFW can really monitor what you have on your computer!

do you mind to share how do u mirrors the websites using amazon/google?
Appreciate your reply!
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