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Wed, Nov 27, 2013

Small step for Microsoft - huge improvement for Chinese users

Skype.com is again redirecting users in China to websites controlled by Chinese companies. This time, however, all user calls, chats and login information are encrypted and being communicated directly to Microsoft via HTTPS. This is a complete about face for Microsoft from the Tom Skype era, when all information was processed by Tom and stored by Tom on servers located in China with absolutely no privacy controls in place.

We praise Microsoft for making this change. We hope this is a harbinger of change to come not just from Microsoft but from all major internet players. It appears that Microsoft is indeed fighting back against censorship in China. We have been very critical of Microsoft and Skype in the past but today we applaud this development.

We still want to ask Microsoft to explain the differences between the Chinese and international versions of Skype. Does the new China version of Skype have more surveillance capabilities than the global version? We would also like the company to reference the specific “Chinese regulations” that they plan on following with their new joint venture partner.

The newly launched joint GMF-Skype website offers a special Chinese version download  which was launched in a partnership with Guangming Founder (GMF).

Fri, Nov 22, 2013

Google Can Bring an End to Censorship in 10 Days. Here's how.

On November 20, 2013, Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman, was quoted as saying during a speech in Washington:

“We can end government censorship in a decade. The solution to government surveillance is to encrypt everything.”

Another report on the same speech notes:

He said he thinks there will be movements from Chinese citizens using technology that country’s leaders won’t be able to control or stop, such as the campaigns in favor of gay rights and same-sex marriage that developed within the U.S.

“You cannot stop it if it’s a good idea broadly held,” Schmidt said. “That’s how China will change.”

Sun, Nov 17, 2013

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:

Tue, Nov 12, 2013

Tom Skype is dead. Long live Microsoft surveillance.

There is a special version of Skype for China which monitors user conversations and reports flagged conversations automatically. We wrote an extensive blog post last year on this subject. Since Skype launched its “partnership” with TOM, it has been nearly impossible to download the original (international) version of Skype as skype.com and all related domains are redirected to skype.tom.com, the Chinese partner's website. Microsoft intentionally redirected Chinese users so that they would download a different program, one which looks almost the same as Skype but opens up a user’s communications to surveillance by the Chinese state.

Furthermore, the user experience on the TOM Skype web page is similar to the Skype web page which means that users will unknowingly download TOM Skype and therefore have their conversations and messages monitored and even automatically uploaded to servers in China.

Tue, Oct 15, 2013

OpenDoor Shut in Apple's Chinese App Store

The popular VPN app OpenDoor was removed from the Chinese app store in August of this year. We wanted to write about this censorship then but feared that our own app would be censored in retaliation from Apple.

Wed, Oct 02, 2013

Decrypt Weibo

***Click here to start decrypting censored weibos now***

Frequent Sina Weibo users will have no doubt seen this message before:

抱歉,此微博不适宜对外公开。如需帮助,请联系客服 .”

This message translates as:

“Sorry, this weibo is not suitable for the public. Please contact customer support for help.”  

“Not suitable for the public” is just an euphemism for censored. The weibo most frequently subjected to this kind of treatment focus on discussions of current and topical events.

Weibo users will see this message often when viewing their own timelines, conducting searches on Sina Weibo or when viewing someone’s profile page. The retweet of the censored weibo is however sometimes not censored. Weibo users are thus left with an intriguing comment but have no way to view the original weibo.

In an effort to solve this problem, Freeweibo.com is pleased to announce the launch of Decrypt Weibo which will make an effort to address this problem. Now, when Sina Weibo users stumble upon such messages, they can click the posted time on the lower left corner and obtain a link like http://www.weibo.com/2093591281/Ab4YMlFgS.

Sun, Aug 04, 2013

Hackers, bloggers and professors team up to tap into blocked microblog content

The stated-sponsered newspaper Global Times published an article about Weibo censorship on July 28th 2013 both in print and electronicallly. The article was removed from the website two days later.  The article is reproduced below.

Update on Aug 12: According to The Diplomat,  "A source close to the matter inside the Global Times tells The Diplomat, "After Kaifu Lee tweeted it on Weibo, it got too much attention and got on the authorities' radar." The same source also confirms that the propaganda department did play a role in taking it down." 

We at GreatFire.org also contacted the Global Times in early August regarding the deletion of the article, but all we got was "[Auto Reply] Your message has been received" and nothing more.

Hackers, bloggers and professors team up to tap into blocked microblog content

Global Times | 2013-7-28 19:13:01
By Xuyang Jingjing

With over 500 million registered users and over 46 million daily active users, Sina Weibo is the largest and most influential social media platform in China. It has also become known as a fostering ground for discussions with a more liberal slant.

But what is not allowed to be discussed on Weibo perhaps says just as much as what can be. There are a number of projects that aim to uncover content blocked on Weibo. Most of the people behind such efforts are China watchers based overseas or foreigners living in China. While they may have different approaches and backgrounds, their efforts are successful in bringing this vanished content back to light.

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