GreatFire.org unblocks BBC Chinese

We are delighted to announce that GreatFire.org is now delivering uncensored, Chinese-language information from the BBC to Chinese netizens behind the great firewall.

The BBC’s Chinese language news website was blocked in China shortly after its launch. Users in China have been able to access content using VPNs. The BBC has also recommended the Psiphon app as a circumvention tool.

The Greatfire.org initiative, with the BBC’s support, makes the content available to users who just want the content to work, without needing special tools.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 14.14.11.png

This initiative coincides with the run up to the local elections in Taiwan. This gives Chinese netizens a rare opportunity to glimpse how their cross straits cousins elect local officials in a transparent and open democratic process.

BBC Chinese is providing unique coverage of the elections with detailed candidate profiles and in-depth analysis. If you want to know what makes people stand for office in Taiwan and how they become a candidate this is the site to read. If you want to understand more about the democratic processes and the impact, both locally and nationally that the newly elected councillors can have, look no further.

Few foreign media properties produce Chinese-language content for audiences in China. This is largely due to the high likelihood of this content being blocked by the Chinese authorities. Sadly, the actions of the Chinese censors have dissuaded other foreign media from launching their own Chinese-language products.

As a result, Chinese netizens are left with fewer options when it comes to reading Chinese-language news sources other than the state-sanctioned media. Among foreign media outlets with Chinese-language properties, the Chinese Wall Street Journal and the Chinese New York Times are both blocked. The Chinese Financial Times and Reuters Chinese see selected sensitive stories blocked by the great firewall.

Many people in China are now fluent in English and the blocking of English-language international news websites has become more common. However, the BBC’s English news site has largely been available to Chinese internet users, despite a recent disruption in service. The image below shows the past availability of BBC Chinese in China (red indicates the site is blocked).

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 17.21.50.png

GreatFire.org will be using its “collateral freedom” method of unblocking websites in China, leveraging global content delivery networks (CDNs) to host a mirror website for the BBC’s Chinese-language content.

Users who want to access a range of international news sources in Chinese, including the BBC, can also download the Psiphon app by sending an email to zhongwen@psiphon3.com. Web addresses for the unblocked BBC content can be found via GreatFire.org's Github page.

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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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