CNNIC censors news about their own statement

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On April 1, 2015 Google announced that they will no longer recognize the CNNIC Root and EV (extensive validation) certificate authorities (CAs).

On April 2, 2015 Mozilla concluded that CNNIC’s behaviour in issuing an unconstrained intermediate certificate to another company was ‘egregious practice’ and that Mozilla products would no longer trust any certificate issued by CNNIC’s roots. Mozilla also published a more detailed report about their actions.

After unauthorized digital certificates for several Google domains were exposed by Google and Mozilla on March 23, 2015, CNNIC censored any mention of these posts. CNNIC is not only a certificate authority, they are also China’s online censorship apparatus. CNNIC was, is and will continue to practice internet censorship.

 

News about the April 1 and 2 annoucements has again been censored on social media and also on traditional media in China.

Below is a screenshot of Weibo posts about these announcements.

 

The first post in the screenshot is about Google revoking CNNIC. Notice that below the first post, there are three buttons while on the second post there are four buttons. The retweet function on the first post about CNNIC is missing. The Chinese authorities are getting more creative about how they prevent negative information from spreading! Later, however, the authorities resorted to ancient practices and the post was completely removed.

 

Even reports which appeared on traditional media websites, detailing how CNNIC were calling out Google for being “unintelligible”, have been censored.

NetEase’s report titled “Chrome and Mozilla revoke CNNIC CA” was deleted within two hours of publishing. NetEase is one of the largest Chinese internet service providers.

URL: http://tech.163.com/15/0403/08/AM8VPOLJ000915BF.html

 

Engadget Chinese's report titled "Google revokes CNNIC CA" is blocked by GFW 

URL: https://en.greatfire.org/cn.engadget.com/2015/04/02/google-cinic-certifi...

 

Sina’s report titled “Google’s decision is unintelligible and unacceptable says CNNIC” was deleted. Sina is the largest Chinese-language web portal.

URL: http://tech.sina.com.cn/i/2015-04-02/doc-ichmifpy5387951.shtml

 

Sohu’s report titled “CNNIC condemn Google ” was deleted. Sohu sits 44th overall in Alexa's internet rankings.

URL: http://mt.sohu.com/20150402/n410717100.shtml

 

Open Source China’s report titled “Google revokes CNNIC and EV root CAs” was deleted. Open Source China is the largest open source community in China.

URL: http://www.oschina.net/news/61141/maintaining-digital-certificate-security

 

Caijing’s report titled “Google revokes CNNIC CA; CNNIC says the decision unintelligible” was deleted. Caijing is an independent magazine that covers social, political, and economic issues.

URL: http://tech.caijing.com.cn/20150402/3854320.shtml

caijing.png

 

In fact, almost all reports about CNNIC’s loss of face have been censored in China. This is in addition of to the wide scale censorship of Google and Mozilla’s posts about CNNIC CA last week.

 

CNNIC said in a statement that ‘the decision that Google has made is unacceptable and unintelligible to CNNIC, and meanwhile CNNIC sincerely urge that Google would take users’ rights and interests into full consideration.”

We argue that CNNIC and the Cyberspace Administration of China’s (CAC) decision to completely block Google (and Facebook and Twitter and many more sites) is unacceptable and unintelligible to Chinese internet users. We do agree that Google should take users’ rights and interests into full consideration - revoking CNNIC is a great step forward for user privacy and security worldwide.

CNNIC has implemented (and tried to mask) internet censorship, produced malware and has very bad security practices. The Cyberspace Administration of China, which manages CNNIC, has maliciously been launching dangerous attacks that compromise sensitive information and hijack users to perform DDoS attacks. Tech-savvy users in China have been protesting the inclusion of CNNIC as a trusted certificate authority for years.

We applaud Google and Mozilla’s decisions to revoke the CNNIC certificate authority worldwide. We urge Apple and Microsoft to follow Google and Mozilla’s lead and revoke CNNIC immediately to protect their users.

 

FAQ

 

Do you think Microsoft and Apple will follow suit?

We do not expect Apple to do anything in this situation. Apple has always capitulated to the demands of the Chinese authorities and we expect nothing less from them in this instance. Microsoft have taken important steps to fight back against dangerous behaviour by the Chinese authorities and we hope that they will continue to do so in this instance.

 

If Microsoft and Apple do not do the same, would you recommend that people just use Chrome and Firefox when browsing?

Yes.

 

What does this mean for CNNIC? Will they continue to issue certificates?

Probably. Internet Explorer and Safari as well as all Chinese browsers still trust the CNNIC CA.

 

Will any new certificates be recognized by Google and Mozilla?

No.

 

If Google, Mozilla, Microsoft and Apple all revoke CNNIC certs then does that mean China won’t be able to stage any more MITM attacks?

All previous large scale MITM attacks have been staged with self-signed certificates. GFW can continue to use MITM to attack websites with self-signed CAs.

 

How long will it take for CNNIC to get back into the good books of these companies?

Google and Mozilla have asked that CNNIC implement certificate transparency before reapplying. If CNNIC implements this, anyone will be able to audit certificates issued by CNNIC in real time. So even though we may not trust CNNIC, we will not object to CNNIC being reinstated if they implement certificate transparency.

 

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Mon, Aug 03, 2020

Announcing the Release of GreatFire Appmaker

GreatFire (https://en.greatfire.org/), a China-focused censorship monitoring organization, is proud to announce that we have developed and released a new anti-censorship tool that will enable any blocked media outlet, blogger, human rights group, or civil society organization to evade censors and get their content onto the phones of millions of readers and supporters in China and other countries that censor the Internet.

GreatFire has built an Android mobile app creator, called “GreatFire AppMaker”, that can be used by organizations to unblock their content for users in China and other countries. Organizations can visit a website (https://appmaker.greatfire.org/) which will compile an app that is branded with the organization’s own logo and will feature their own, formerly blocked content. The app will also contain a special, censorship-circumventing web browser so that users can access the uncensored World Wide Web. The apps will use multiple strategies, including machine learning, to evade advanced censorship tactics employed by the Chinese authorities.  This project will work equally well in other countries that have China-like censorship restrictions. For both organizations and end users, the apps will be free, fast, and extremely easy to use.

This project was inspired by China-based GreatFire’s first-hand experience with our own FreeBrowser app (https://freebrowser.org/en) and desire to help small NGOs who may not have the in-house expertise to circumvent Chinese censorship. GreatFire’s anti-censorship tools have worked in China when others do not. FreeBrowser directs Chinese internet users to normally censored stories from the app’s start page (http://manyvoices.news/).

Fri, Jul 24, 2020

Apple, anticompetition, and censorship

On July 20, 2020, GreatFire wrote to all 13 members of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, requesting a thorough examination into Apple’s practice of censorship of its App Store, and an investigation into how the company collaborates with the Chinese authorities to maintain its unique position as one of the few foreign tech companies operating profitably in the Chinese digital market.  

This letter was sent a week before Apple CEO TIm Cook will be called for questioning in front of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. The CEOs of Amazon, Google and Facebook will also be questioned on July 27, as part of the Committee’s ongoing investigation into competition in the digital marketplace.

This hearing offers an opportunity to detail to the Subcommittee how Apple uses its closed operating ecosystem to not only abuse its market position but also to deprive certain users, most notably those in China, of their right to download and use apps related to privacy, secure communication, and censorship circumvention.

We hope that U.S. House representatives agree with our view that Apple should not be allowed to do elsewhere what would be considered as unacceptable in the U.S. Chinese citizens are not second class citizens. Private companies such as Apple compromise themselves and their self-proclaimed values of freedom and privacy when they collaborate with the Chinese government and its censors.

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.
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