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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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

里根在西柏林演说时曾说:拆掉那堵墙吧!

在中国想说:拆掉那堵墙吧!

里根在西柏林演说时曾说:拆掉那堵墙吧!

在中国想说:拆掉那堵墙吧!

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!
thanks!

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