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Fri, Sep 28, 2012

Eight Questions For GlobalWebIndex

GlobalWebIndex published a new report on Internet usage around the world this week, and it contained some great news for China. Twitter, Facebook and Google+ have increased their user numbers dramatically in China, as seen below. There's just one problem. They are all blocked in China, and we believe that GlobalWebIndex has got its data wrong (as do TheNextWeb):

Thu, Sep 06, 2012

GreatFire August: New York Times Articles Blocked

Many Blocked New York Times Articles

The Chinese edition of the New York Times - - 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 is blocked whereas 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).

Fri, Aug 03, 2012

GreatFire July

News Sites Update

After Bloomberg was blocked in June, we are tracking whether other news websites will follow with great interest. Of particular interest is - the Chinese version of the New York Times which was also launched in June. It has not yet been blocked. The Hong Kong edition of Yahoo! News was less lucky. was blocked on July 3 and has stayed inaccessible in China since. Yahoo! China (, which is hosted in China and operates under Chinese censorship regulations, is still working well though.

Bye-bye Slideshare was blocked on July 11 and has stayed blocked since. This is the first time that Slideshare has been permantently blocked since we started monitoring access to it from China in March, 2011.

Thu, Jul 12, 2012

GreatFire June: Bloomberg Blocked As Well As Hundreds Of Additional Keywords On Weibo

The big question for people following online censorship in China is a simple: is censorship increasing or decreasing in China? Many cite the growth of microblogs such as Sina Weibo, as well as the total number of Internet users in China, and argue that while censorship is pervasive, overall, things are opening up. However, two developments during the month of June suggest otherwise. The first was that Bloomberg was blocked, the first time in years that a major, English-language news website was blocked. The second was that out of the 15,000+ keywords on Sina Weibo, Google and Wikipedia that we are monitoring, an additional 231 were blocked while only 24 were unblocked. It would seem that the grip on censorship is tightening.

In a curious incident, Henan News published a story mentioning the Great Firewall by name both in Chinese and English. The story was quickly deleted, but thanks to Google Cache you can still view it here.

Sat, Jun 02, 2012

GreatFire May: Google and Sina Adapt, The Great Firewall Strikes Back

After analyzing our May data, which now covers more than 30,000 URLs, we can confidently say that the month of May was uneventful. Few major websites were blocked or unblocked. Perhaps this lack of activity was related to leadership change in China (and not just at the very top - see Rumors say China's chief internet censor replaced. While the Great Firewall didn't change much, Google and Sina, in very different ways, both took important steps in trying to deal with the pervasive censorship.

Google Strikes - The Great Firewall Hits Back

"We have observed that searching for certain keywords on Google from within mainland China will often lead to a temporary service disruption." 
Google Support, May 31, 2012.

Starting on May 31, Google displayed a warning message to users from China if they enter any of the many keywords blocked by the Great Firewall. Users could choose to continue the search which would most likely result in the connection being reset for a minute or so. Or they had the possibility to edit the search query and find another, non-blocked, way of searching for the same thing.

All Blocked Keywords According To Google

We were excited yesterday to see Google roll out a new feature that warns users trying to search for keywords that would otherwise be blocked by the Great Firewall. It seems that the feature has now already been disabled by the GFW blocking access to the javascript file which does the magic. More on that in our soon-to-be-published monthly newsletter. Meanwhile, we couldn't resist reverse-engineering the list of blocked keywords that Google used. Neither could the team at who beat us to it. Anyway, better late than never, here is the full list. We will be importing all of them into our system shortly for automatic and continuous testing.


















^\s*download freegate\s*$


^\s*freegate download\s*$



























blood is on the square


chinese people eating babies

















Mon, May 28, 2012

How to unblock websites in China for web owners

Good news, everybody. We've worked out a simpler solution to unblock websites in China. Visit for more detail

This is a step by step guide on how to unblock your website for visitors in China without them having to do anything. The Great FireWall of China is a complicated filtering system capable of blocking websites by a variety of methods. The common methods used are IP blocking, URL and Packet filtering by connection reset, TLS (SSL) certificate filtering by connection reset and DNS hijacking.


IP blocking

Use CDN (Count Delivery Network) to hide the real IP of your site from GFW. I did a simple test myself. I created a Google site and linked it with 4 subdomains as follows.

CNAME records: ( is currently not blocked in China) ->   CDN enabled ->

A records: ( is subject to IP blocking in China)>  CDN enabled ->

Thu, May 10, 2012

GreatFire Newsletter - April, 2012

April was an eventful month in China. Here's a summary of the most important Internet censorship news that we detected.

No major changes after Internet outage on April 12

There was an extraordinary Internet outage in China on April 12. Many reported that all foreign websites were unaccessible for about two hours. Our data confirms that several websites that are otherwise not blocked were not accessible, but interestingly other foreign websites were still available. For more info on what happened, check out our answer on Quora. Some people suggested that the authorities were trying out a new version of the Great Firewall, which would be more restrictive than before. Our data does not support this claim. As you can see in the first graph below, there has not been any major change in the number of major websites that are blocked in China. Furthermore, the second graph shows that foreign websites were actually faster to access in April than during previous months.