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Opera Closes China Loophole; Reinstates Censorship

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the because-they-can dept.

Censorship 272

ObsessiveMathsFreak writes "Coming hot on the heels of Microsoft's censoring of Chinese search results, browser-maker Opera has become the latest company to joyfully contribute to prosperous growth of the Great Firewall of China. For speed and convenience, the mobile phone-based 'Opera Mini' browser receives formatted web pages via Opera's own line of proxy servers. These unfiltered proxies gave Opera's Chinese users rare unfettered access to the wider web. However, this loophole has now been closed, with Chinese users now being directed to 'upgrade' to 'Opera Mini China,' which closes this loophole, returning them to the bosom of party censorship, and Opera to the favor of the Chinese Government. Truly; 'To Get Rich Is Glorious.'"

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272 comments

This post is unavailable. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30201314)

Please Upgrade to Slashdot China.

Re:This post is unavailable. (4, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201424)

Please Upgrade to Slashdot China.

No DON'T -- I did, and unfortunately it shattered when I dropped it. I'm sticking to the plastic slashdot from now on.

Re:This post is unavailable. (1)

codeButcher (223668) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201776)

Well, plastic IS then new china. Manufactured courtesy of the same country that gave the original stuff its name.

Re:This post is unavailable. (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202274)

Slashdot China. As if nerds didn't have enough problems getting the girls, now Chinese nerds have to also fight a 5:4 male-female ratio on top of it?

Torn (2, Interesting)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201894)

I'm torn on this. We want freedom. Does that mean we let the companies have freedom to do business with China and follow their rules? Or, should we demand that companies from the "free world" not contribute to the human rights problems of China, and others?

Re:Torn (2, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201976)

My own opinion is, corporations have no business aiding and abetting censorship. I've thought pretty well of Opera, until now. This is the sort of whoring that helps to give Microsoft THEIR bad name. It irritates me when any of them goes this route. Somewhere in China sits an asshole just like me, except for the color of his skin, and the government is just waiting for him to slip up, giving them a reason to "reeducate" him. The corporate whores are more than happy to sell him out....

Re:Torn (2, Interesting)

JWW (79176) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202322)

Yep, I'm reading this story in an Opera browser and wondering if I should switch back to Firefox.....

Re:Torn (2, Insightful)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202000)

How is having no Google at all better than having a censored Google? This is different from profiting from child labor or whatever, imho. Google is useful for the people, and you can be sure China won't stop censoring just because their people can't access Google.

Re:Torn (4, Insightful)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202124)

During the Cold War, the most effective way of breaking through to the people behind the Iron Curtain was to keep our doors open (ahem, CUBA!) and allow them free access to the 'west'. Eventually, it snowballed, fences and walls came down. The so-called "People's Army" turned their guns from the people to the government, in some cases, or were just dropped, and the people tore down the blockades.

Re:Torn (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202332)

Talk to your Congressman or the President. The president is charged with the power to set foreign policy. Currently, US policy is to increase freedom in China via econ omic growth. Like it or not, that's the policy, and it hasn't changed in 30 years. And that includes browsers and Internet backbone software, which they would just clone, steal, or reproduce the hard way anyway.

So if you have a beef about censorship software itself, talk to Congress, and get them to pass punitive laws to companies that do business in the US if they provide censorship software. They've done it for foreign companies that deal in Cuba who also deal in the US, so they could do it for China, too.

Oh, by the way, also stop voting for politicians who are happy to spend next generation's tax revenues this year in exchange for your vote. In this way, we won't have to borrow so much money, and the president won't have to stand there while the Chinese leader subtly mocks him.

I would change browser out of protest (1, Insightful)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201324)

Unfortunately there is no better browser for my needs. Still, good that this makes the news. Name and shame, but in the end it won't change a thing. The market in China is not something many companies will want to lose out on. And as long as we're still buying nike's or other clothes made by them little kids there, we better look in the mirror first.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201362)

Well, unless you're a Chinese speaker, you oddly have no choice other than to switch browsers if you're in China. From the end of the article:

But a weird spinoff is that if you're a foreigner in China, your non-Chinese language version of Opera Mini will not work.

I don't know why this is or if it's true or if Opera plans to fix it but I would find their implementation of a solution pretty archaic if that's one of the caveats. Hopefully they are working on fixing that.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (3, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201418)

I really doubt this is something Opera did on its own. But if you want to do business in China, you have to go by their goverment's rules there like everyone else.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30201446)

I really doubt this is something Opera did on its own.

Care to backup that claim or explain how it could be someone other than Opera deciding that non-Chinese Opera Mini browsers should not work but Chinese Opera Mini browsers should work? I'd love to learn about this magic.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201462)

Well if 'that Chinese Dude' who can completely close down your business over there makes a suggestion, you better follow up.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (4, Insightful)

SausageOfDoom (930370) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201620)

My understanding is that they've got a special censoring proxy. A more reasonable option would seem to me to be a multiple choice question in the settings:

    - "Use Opera's proxy for users outside China"
    - "Use Opera's proxy for users inside China"
    - "Use a different proxy"
    - "Don't use Opera's proxy at all"

China can block the external proxy, and the browser can then auto-sense which Opera proxy to use, or let you bypass it altogether and go straight to the great firewall. That way everyone's happy.

Personally I'd prefer it if I didn't have to go through Opera's proxy; it may make things faster, but I always see it as another point in the chain where things can go wrong (security, privacy etc), and seems redundant when my phone's on a LAN. Do any recent versions let you turn it off?

Re:I would change browser out of protest (5, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201702)

We aren't talking the "main" Opera browser here. Opera Mini is for mobile phones that aren't powerful enough to support their full mobile client. Opera Mini proxy servers compress and optimize web pages so that it's easier and faster for your mobile phone to show them.

This doesn't affect Opera on computers or the full-scale Opera Mobile client.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30202170)

It might. There's a feature in the full browser called Opera Turbo that seems to work in a similar way to the mobile client. Server side compression etc.

I have wondered how this might interact with the Great Firewall of my own country (Britain). Probably it bypasses the blacklist, since the filtering is only applied to consumer-level internet connections originating within Britain. The British Government still has so much to learn from China.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201824)

Even if the government's rules are unethical?

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202326)

If you don't the unethical government will kick your business out of China and they won't have Opera at all.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (3, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201672)

I don't know why this is or if it's true or if Opera plans to fix it but I would find their implementation of a solution pretty archaic if that's one of the caveats. Hopefully they are working on fixing that.

Probably true. Opera Mini works by connecting to proxy servers that filter Web content so that it displays properly on a cell phone's tiny screen. All Opera Software would have to do is run a separate set of proxies for "Opera Mini China" and then actively refuse connections on their main proxies originating from Chinese IP address blocks. (Or, more likely, the Great Firewall will block them.)

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201882)

I don't know why this is

Well think about it. If getting around the censorship is as easy as using a non-Chinese browser, it's not much of a firewall, is it?
The class of Chinese people who care about censorship and have web access are very likely to know a non-Chinese language (probably English)...

Re:I would change browser out of protest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30201456)

Better it be the poor kids getting money for making nike's, then it be the rich kids. Why does everyone assume that it hurts the the poor contries that we send work to them?

The old "think of the children" situation was about the working _conditions_ not the very fact that they had work.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201546)

It's a question of exploitation. It's one thing to say "We're going to send you decent paying work." It's quite another to say "We're going to exploit your poverty by paying you as little as possible, so we can make more money for ourselves."

Re:I would change browser out of protest (5, Insightful)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201488)

I would change browser out of protest. Unfortunately there is no better browser for my needs.

That's awfully principled of you. "I would stop eating at a restaurant where the owner is an asshole, but then I'd have to walk half a mile more". It's like an attempt to paint yourself as a moral person, while being lazy and not doing anything anyway.

If you think it's really the wrong thing to do, and wrong enough to justify a switch to something else, then switch. If you think it's a perfectly fine thing for Opera to do, then just say that. But to take your option is simply hypocrisy. Sticking to principles isn't free, there is always some sort of sacrifice involved.

Still, good that this makes the news. Name and shame, but in the end it won't change a thing.

The way you're doing it, indeed it won't.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30201646)

Since you're such a morally principled person who feels the need to posture himself over others, what are you doing to help the situation?

You're the hypocrite here.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (2, Insightful)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201730)

Since you're such a morally principled person who feels the need to posture himself over others, what are you doing to help the situation?

Nothing in this case, since I'm not involved in it in the first place. I'd uninstall it if I had it installed.

But I do refuse to do business with companies that I consider unethical, and for instance I bought a music player at another country so that I could have one that fulfills my need while not being from Apple. I also made a special effort to buy a TV not made by Sony back when the rootkit mess happened. Both cases involved some inconvenience and extra expense.

I also stick to 100% open source software on my computer for much the same reason. Sometimes it's inconvenient, but I figure it's a good long term decision.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201654)

I disagree he was painting himself as a moral person - he was upfront about that fact that he couldn't protest in this manner, and so it was clear that he wasn't trying to paint himself this way.

It's unclear how this kind of protest would work anyway, since Opera is free.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201908)

It's unclear how this kind of protest would work anyway, since Opera is free.

Everybody cares about market share. Even in the OSS community, you'd rather make a project that lots of people use than that nobody uses.

he was upfront about that fact that he couldn't protest in this manner

If changing your browser is too much of a stretch to stand up for your beliefs, then lord knows what wouldn't be.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (0)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202012)

And even if program like Opera is free, it doesn't mean the users aren't generating income. For example Opera gets paid by Google to have them as default search engine, and Opera also gets a small share on Google ad clicks that come from Opera's search box.

This is the same way Firefox also generates income, but in addition Opera Software is doing business on other devices which brings them larger income than Mozilla actually, even if their browser marketshare on desktop is a lot less than Firefox's.
Mozilla Foundation: Revenue $75 million (4 employees)
Opera Software: Revenue $89 million (675+ employees)

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201916)

Sir, it's my darn right to be a hypocrite. Don't like it? Go live in China where they also tell you what sites you can and cannot see. I like my freedom of being a hypocrite. Now if that means I can't express my opinion or engage in discussion. Tell you what, I also buy 'wrong' chocolate. Why? Because it's cheaper. Can't save the whole world on my own you know. I am however an active member of Amnesty and I've written many a letter for the release of captives in foreign countries. Some of them even got released due to this hypocrite and 50.000 other hypocrites writing those letters. And you? What have you done lately?

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202128)

Sir, it's my darn right to be a hypocrite. Don't like it? Go live in China where they also tell you what sites you can and cannot see. I like my freedom of being a hypocrite.

That's a funny way to view things. But if you have a right to be a hypocrite, I have a right to point out that you are.

Personally, I think freedom always comes with a responsibility of helping to maintain it.

Can't save the whole world on my own you know. I am however an active member of Amnesty and I've written many a letter for the release of captives in foreign countries. Some of them even got released due to this hypocrite and 50.000 other hypocrites writing those letters.

That's a worthy thing to do, no complaints there

And you? What have you done lately?

I participate actively in a small political party that follows my beliefs. Maybe it'll get somewhere and make things better. Maybe in the end it won't. But I've got to try in any case. Nothing useful would come out of me grumbling about how much things suck but not bothering to do anything about it.

I will join you when Google does something (3, Insightful)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201500)

There are way bigger, monstrous sized companies who does serve to China's interests. Who did the "great firewall" to begin with? Which hardware does it run on? Can you imagine the data bandwidth, processing power required to do such "out of Internet nature" thing?

What about gigantic game companies who abides their "1 hour only" rules? What about once hippie run company shipping their "edition" for China?

Opera is like a grocery store run by family compared to those companies which are gigantic. They got bigger but they are still small. Their main income is from mobile&electronics and I don't think any mobile company on this planet dares to confront China. Their shareholders would really punish them so bad that Opera ASA as we all know would cease to exist.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (4, Insightful)

paiute (550198) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201556)

Look, the Nazis need a database just like anyone else, don't they? It's not like our database is going to invade Poland. It's just a database, just a product. Everyone else is selling to them. What, you want us to lose out?

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1, Offtopic)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201602)

Way to Godwin the thread. I bet your mom's real proud.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (0, Offtopic)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201902)

...and the sad part is you got modded "offtopic" while the GP was "insightful".

The modding system gets worse every day.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202414)

Actually the GP post was on-topic.

Before WWII, IBM sold a lot of technology to the Nazis. Technology the Nazis used immorally, just like China's filtering.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (4, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202018)

When dealing with large, murderous, totalitarian governments (no, I don't mean the US, which only aspires to the last), mentioning the Nazis isn't always inappropriate.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (5, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202112)

What's why you're posting on an x86 system. You're just so outraged at IBM.

Re:I would change browser out of protest (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202224)

In that case, selling the database would be bad for the people, which would get killed. But is it bad for the people to have a crippled browser than to have no browser at all? I don't think so. Or do you think the Opera Mobile is so important that China will give up their censoring just so they won't lose Opera Mobile?

Re:I would change browser out of protest. (-1, Offtopic)

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Re:I would change browser out of protest. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30201946)

This joker is a pretty convincing case for MORE censorship in China.

I need a browser business lesson here. (2, Interesting)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201368)

In practice, Opera likely had little choice but to comply with local laws, and make a new version for Chinese users that cannot access all the "filtered" sites, same as any other Web browser.

They had no choice. So, the Chinese government would prevent them from doing business in China which is giving it away for free? I've never seen Opera specific advertising when I use Opera. So, I don't get it. Exactly what would Opera lose if they weren't in China?

Re:I need a browser business lesson here. (3, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201460)

Opera does a lot more business than just ads in a browser. They get income from Google to include them as default search engine and additional income for every ad click made by Opera user. Their other sources of income also include mobile phones clients (manufacturers and telco's might pay them to include their browser), Wii, other media equipment. For example lots of hotel's seem to be using Opera as embedded browser for their systems and to give visitor ability to browse internet from TV (this isn't always shown everywhere, but I was visiting a hotel once and the hotel tv rebooted and showed Opera logo on startup).

And considering China has 1.5 billion people, it would be quite stupid to ignore that market area.

Re:I need a browser business lesson here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30201536)

It would be quite stupid, you know, unless they had morals and principals.

Re:I need a browser business lesson here. (2, Insightful)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201616)

It would be quite stupid, you know, unless they had morals and principals.

I disagree. The Chinese know that they're being blocked and if their current browser all of a sudden doesn't show things that they're used to seeing, i.e. Facebook, they will know who is the cause. And that takes yet another small chunk out of the Chinese government's stranglehold.

We need to think long term, here. And long term changes are the ones that stay.

Re:I need a browser business lesson here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30201832)

You can forget about this. Most Chinese *agree* with the censorship. There was a small article in the China daily today. It talked about how "we" should increase our efforts to improve content filters for the internet to prevent all that dirty pornography which may disturb minors (they actually claimed it disrupted people from doing their studying).

If I ask friends or colleagues there are many people who agree with the filtering. Because they "never go to a blocked website anyway". It is even difficult to explain to them it is because their search engines will not even display blocked content. And apart from geeks nobody can distinguish a "connection reset" from a "page not found" anyway.

Like in most countries, most people here are much like sheep, and any change will not be coming from them, or for such idealistic reasons as free speech.

Alert: Danger of demagogy from here on (1)

Schiphol (1168667) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201588)

Surely sometimes it is not quite stupid to, but instead one has to, ignore a certain market area? An extreme example being gas-chamber manufacturers and Nazi Germany?

Them Nazis. Always so helpul when trying to drive our points home.

Real World example (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201606)

Samsung recently decided (wisely) to switch to Opera in all their handsets, including smart phones. Imagine what would Chinese Govt. do to handsets including Opera browser in device ROM. That would send Samsung from Number 2 mobile maker to "others" immediately. I guess shareholders would send Samsung CEO to enjoy some Tibet hippie living with Opera CEO in no time.

Re:I need a browser business lesson here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30201848)

Not to mention how much it would suck if you got sued by China, or worse couldn't step into the country anymore because you were going to get arrested the second you did. (Or a country with extradition to China, I'm sure there's a couple of those).

I wonder what else... (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201376)

...happens to whatever is filtered through Opera proxy. Stats, passwords, preferences, online purchases, banking - this all goes through the Opera proxies and is wide open to employees. Although a small slice of the WWW market, Opera gets an insight into much larger piece of online activities of its users than, say, Google does - it has "phone home and report everything, ever" built in as its fundamental design decision.

Re:I wonder what else... (3, Interesting)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201542)

Basically, it is not possible. There is private/public key encryption built in, that is why browser (shell in fact) asks you to press random keys or "move mouse" (in touchscreen) when first installed.

If you want to set up a conspiracy theory, don't look anywhere other than some popular search engines who bowed to China.

Re:I wonder what else... (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202280)

Alice wants to send postcard to Bob. So she puts it in sealed envelope, mails it to Carl and asks Carl to open the envelope, put a stamp on the postcard and mail it to Bob. Yeah, there is no way in hell Carl can learn what is written on the postcard, after all it has been closed in a sealed envelope only Alice and Carl can open...

Opera proxy acts like man-in-the-middle attack by design, that is its fundamental function, with consent and awareness of both parties whose communication is intercepted. It modifies outgoing data to have replies directed to itself instead to the source, then it heavily modifies incoming data to make it displayable on mobile devices. It is free to do anything it desires with the data on top of that.

Re:I wonder what else... (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202382)

Yeah, there is no way in hell Carl can learn what is written on the postcard, after all it has been closed in a sealed envelope only Alice and Carl can open...

Because it’s written in a code that only Alice and Bob have the key to, obviously.

Re:I wonder what else... (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201670)

This is only true if you are actually using those services. There's Opera Turbo in the main browser, that compresses the data between their proxy and your browser. Obviously theres no much need to use it on faster connection than lets say gprs. and HTTPS sites will still go without the proxy. Google had a very similar service [wikipedia.org] btw.

Re:I wonder what else... (1)

Ksevio (865461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202166)

From what I remember, only http goes through the proxy, https obviously wouldn't be able to be compressed since they can't read it.

Re:I wonder what else... (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202394)

Can then the untransformed https pages display their content?

On top of that, there is nothing to stop the proxy from acting as man-in-the-middle, after all it does have all the keys and certs.

Re:I wonder what else... (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202410)

Good encryption simultaneously compresses the data, because the encrypted result is designed to contain maximum entropy so that it’s indistinguishable from random data. In theory, anyway.

You can compress things that you can’t read, no problem (well, you can read it, but you can’t decipher it). What you can’t compress is incompressible data. It would be useless to try to compress https traffic.

What word do yo think they were aiming for? (5, Informative)

germansausage (682057) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201378)

"returning them to the buxom of party censorship"

buxom ??? What word do you think they were aiming for?

Re:What word do yo think they were aiming for? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30201458)

buxom ??? What word do you think they were aiming for?

The closest related word that would make any sense there is "bosom".

Re:What word do yo think they were aiming for? (0)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201656)

Busom. Obvious typo; the S is just above and to the left of the X. "Returning them to the busom of party censorship".

Re:What word do yo think they were aiming for? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201854)

returning them to the buxom of party censorship

[X] In inverted-boobies China, citizens welcome buxom party overlords.
[X] In buxom China, who cares if party censors YOU?
[X] Confucius say: Buxoms just like Chinese food - hour later, you want see buxoms again.
[X] Headline should read: Opera and China kiss and make up - buxom buddies - searches now return 50% more boobies so citizens no longer complain about being deprived of foreign culture.
[X] "buxom of party censorship" - pics or it didn't happen!

Re:What word do yo think they were aiming for? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202284)

They were aiming for exactly the word they used. It was incorrect because it’s an adjective, not a noun.

buxom
Function: adjective
1 obsolete a : obedient, tractable b : offering little resistance : flexible <wing silently the buxom air — John Milton>
2 archaic : full of gaiety
3 : vigorously or healthily plump; specifically : full-bosomed

The information is out there.. (2, Interesting)

skgrey (1412883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201382)

I can imagine that there's citizens of China that have unfettered access to the internet; there are plenty of companies out there that host software VPN's that allow a user to appear to be from a different country. The information is out there, you just have to know how to get it, although there is some risk. Hell, a business could probably make a good amount of money hosting terminal or Citrix servers just for FireFox usage for China users.

I'm sure there's a fairly large risk involved, and the punishments are probably severe. But where there's a will, there's a way, especially in technology.

Re:The information is out there.. (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201524)

This is true; but less useful than it sounds.

Sometimes, censorship(especially of the more or less extreme "news blackouts and gunmen occupying the radio stations" flavor, or Iran's SMS being down for service at a convenient time) is in fact about stopping the flow of information among motivated people. This is very hard to do perfectly; but can often be done well enough to dampen some particular event.

Day to day, though, censorship is less about dissuading the truly motivated(though, if it can make them easy to detect and harass, that is a plus) and more about preventing the casual from becoming motivated. In most cases, people aren't just born motivated, they become motivated based on experiences or information. If you can control the information available to casual browsers, you can substantially modify the risk of having to deal with motivated adversaries later.

Every time the Great Firewall comes up, somebody always mentions one or more of its numerous technical weaknesses. Those are largely beside the point. If the system is good enough to ensure that casual users receive only a steady stream of ideologically comfortable information, the system will ensure that it never faces more than a limited number of sophisticated and adversarial users.

Re:The information is out there.. (1)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201968)

If the system is good enough to ensure that casual users receive only a steady stream of ideologically comfortable information, the system will ensure that it never faces more than a limited number of sophisticated and adversarial users.

Cf. the United States.

Can we see this? (3, Interesting)

east coast (590680) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201398)

Can other people use their proxy to see what they can't see? I'd really like to see, first hand, what it's like to browse through their proxy. I just wonder what sites I visit normally that aren't available.

And Opera for one... (2, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201426)

welcomes our new Chinese overlords

Re:And Opera for one... (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201574)

"Opera for one?" Please, there is no shortage. The summary already lists Microsoft ... and then there's Google [slashdot.org] and Yahoo! [slashdot.org] and Flickr [slashdot.org] and a whole lot of other global companies interested in partaking in sales to over 1/6th of the world's population. And, if we can believe this study [slashdot.org] the Chinese people by and large welcome their censorship overlords! It's not going anywhere, all we can do is aid and abet the poor 15% that want less biased information. The only services not kowtowing are those uninterested in massive profits [slashdot.org] from the country!

If you owned shares in a tech company or lead a tech company, I'm sure you'd be welcoming the Chinese overlord's business invitation as well.

Meh, no choice (4, Insightful)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201440)

Option 1: Refuse then, get blocked meaning you make no money and china gets no uncensored news
Option A:Comply keep making money and china gets no uncensored news.

Re:Meh, no choice (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202146)

If one IT company refuses to cooperate, it makes no difference. If most of the IT companies refuse to cooperate, the IT capability drops dramatically, and science, engineering, medicine and economy begin to suffer. That might just make a difference.

Do You Expect Anything Different? (5, Insightful)

Fantom42 (174630) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201478)

It is unfortunate that companies in this situation are caving to the requests of a government that has different ideals about the freedom of information than we do, but honestly, do you expect anything different? These companies aren't in the business of battling China on their political ideology. They are out to sell a web browser and maximize the NPV of the company. This is what a business and a free market is all about. To do anything different would be a strategic move that while it could be argued might benefit Chinese citizens, it is much less likely to benefit Opera. Furthermore, if they did fight China on this one, I think it would be naive to think that they did it for any other reason that as a calculated risk to gain marketshare and ultimately profit. So don't act surprised when stuff like this happens. The sooner people realize what businesses are and aren't, the sooner they will understand the forces shaping the world in which we live.

Re:Do You Expect Anything Different? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30201876)

Businesses can only go so far to fight political battles. If they go too far, they end up out of business. Clearly, Opera knew about how their proxy servers were a loophole for the Great Wall of China. However, when the Chinese Government comes knocking, you don't have much choice. If Opera had chosen to fight the Chinese Government, they Chinese Government would have simply dictated another browser be used -- and one would have. Opera would have permanently lost that market share and the Chinese people would be in exactly the same position. Additionally, it would have supported another browser company -- who would have new inroads into the American and other markets with the phone manufacturers.

Personally, I'd love it if every American company had a portion of their website devoted to Tienamann Square and other issues that could be installed from a standard tar ball but that clearly won't happen. In the end, companies can only fight government so far -- they don't even stand up for themselves anymore in the U.S. unless they are enormous and have lots of clout. (Just look at how the current administration demonizes business owners and targets them with new taxes and regulations -- and while rightly business owners should be marching in the streets, they aren't.)

Why do we expect corps. to do politics for us ? (5, Insightful)

gapagos (1264716) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201486)

It strikes me how often I hear supposedly pro-market "patriotic" Americans like Lou Dobbs being shocked that:
  - GOOGLE cooperates with China.
  - MICROSOFT cooperates with China.
  - MYSPACE coorporates with China.
And so on. What did you expect? Corporations are not here to defend American interests. Thy are there to defend THEIR interests, and THEIR interests lies in conquering a market of 1.2 billion people. That is a huge market. 320 million americans is dipshit compared to 1,200 million. Ok, I exagerate, as per-capita GDP is much higher in the U.S., but you know where I'm getting at.

If we want to send a message to China, we should ask our diplomats and politicians to do it. NOT expect freakin' corporation to do it for us. They have no reason to care, and it's prefectly understandable. Anybody who thinks otherwise has clearly been brainwashed by the "free market capitalism perfection Kool-Aid".

Re:Why do we expect corps. to do politics for us ? (3, Informative)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201852)

Everyone seems to forget that Corporations are Amoral and base all decisions on Legalities. Simply put, Morals have no place in a corporation as the decision goes like this. Is it Legal? Does it Offer a Competitive Advantage? If yes to both, Do it. It's that damn simple.

Remember: (3, Informative)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201526)

Capitalism will bring democracy to China!

I love the Chinese people - very fine people, respect for education, pretty girls, good solid folks. But their government is crap, and has been crap for 100 years, and the current collection of power mad bullies running the joint are a bunch of asshats who deserve all the punishment and torture they meet out upon their rivals and those who seek to exercise their basic human rights as outlined in the UN Charter.

To the people of China: Welcome to the 21st century. We're glad you made it.

To the Chinese Government: FUCK YOU. YOU SCUM SUCKING FREAKS.

RS

Re:Remember: (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201778)

Your comment has been identified by the "Opera Browser for the Glorious Republic of China" as unconformist unwanted behaviour.
You have been added to our Glorious Black Book, please report yourself to the nearest town-hall for severe punishment or lose your chance for Chinese citizenship for your entire lifetime.

* laugh about it now, you capitalist, until all the world will be the Glorious World of China, you'd wish you could become a citizen then.

Re:Remember: (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202316)

No it's much closer to summery execution with the bullet being charged to your wife/family. Dissenting is not allowed.

Re:Remember: (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30202440)

It's been this way for much longer than 100 years. Censorship is, and always has been, a way of life for the Chinese. It is not a problem and it is in fact supported by many of Chinese people. The mindset is completely different from that of Americans/English.

For example, many secrets are kept within Chinese families. You NEVER talk about something that can make your family lose face, no matter if it's true or not. I have a lifetime of firsthand experience with the "do" and "do nots" because half of my family is Chinese. Family pride at almost any cost is something that is drilled in from a very early age. This same ideal reaches out to the government as well.

Boycott Opera!#!! (5, Insightful)

thetagger (1057066) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201622)

... or not. I mean, restricting some content on the web isn't nearly as bad as invading other countries, killing its civilians by the hundreds of thousands and setting up puppet governments, and yet nobody here is calling for boycotts against American companies that support all of this (which is all of them, or at least those that pay taxes).

Re:Boycott Opera!#!! (3, Funny)

JStegmaier (1051176) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201940)

at least those that pay taxes

So what you're saying is Microsoft isn't the bad guy for once?

Re:Boycott Opera!#!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30202338)

Nice straw man! Are you humming the melody to If I Only Had A Brain too?

Re:Boycott Opera!#!! (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202340)

America out of Europe?

Let me know when you figure out how to deal with the most unstable region of the world will you? Then you can tell me how you're going to deal with the 4th most unstable region of the world. The third most unstable has actually been quiet for last few years.

that doesn't make sense (2, Informative)

muncadunc (1679192) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201628)

returning them to the buxom of party censorship

You can't be returned to the buxom of anything, because buxom isn't a noun. It's an adjective.
Were you thinking of bosom? They're two words with completely different etymologies: Buxom used to mean "bendy or pliable" and is related to German biegsam.

a censored mind is a weak mind (2, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201658)

the mind is like a muscle: work it out, challenge it with ideas hostile to your own, and you only wind up with a stronger mind and stronger ideas

i understand that the technocrats think they are protecting the chinese citizen from foreign interference and degenerate thoughts, but for whatever perceived good is being done by a policy of censorship, the much larger real negative effect is to turn chinese citizens into cotton heads full of nothing but empty thoughts, placid lies. the truth is always ugly and disharmonious. that's what makes placid lies so much more attractive

for a mind where the serene lie is more valuable than the rude truth, inward thinking reigns. this is the same inward thinking, away from the wider world, building a wall against the outside world, literal and figurative, that led to the rot of the old chinese dynasties, and left china weak and ripe for exploit by foreign powers. the shame of this history drives so much of modern chinese infuriated pride: never again will china be defiled by foreign powers. the literal and figurative rapes of japanese imperialism, the british opium wars to force heroin on its citizens: this led to china's rebellions and eventual modernization

however, in the policies of the technocrats of beijing today, we see the same seeds of the same thinking of the old brittle bureaucratic mandarins that led to china's previous downfall. sheep are very harmonious, docile, placid creatures. they're also dumb. dear china: why do you choose placid lies over ugly truths? the harmonious still pool is beautiful, but weak. the raging river is ugly and dirty, but strong

the chinese government are turning their citizens into housepets. this is not a strong nation, this is a weak one, populated by simpletons who could have been strong minds, but the chinese govermnet made sure they were empty weak minds, by censoring anything that would challenge the dominant monoculture. yes, legions of robots can turn out lots of cheap goods, but you would think that you would like a china full of strong and wise chinese, not slaves. and yet the chinese government clearly values their citizens only as slaves, unable to think on their own, with censorship policies that mean chinese minds are never exercised

the chinese government does not respect its own citizens. the chinese government's censorship policies is recreating the conditions that led to china's historical rot, and the chinese government's policies will mean china will be weak again, and dominated and exploited again

that is why, in the name of respecting the chinese people, i do not respect the legitimacy of the chinese government. the chinese government does not respect its own people. the chinese government has an agenda which serves only its own flawed priorities, and do not serve its people

Re:a censored mind is a weak mind (2, Informative)

moz25 (262020) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201818)

I agree with most of your points, but I can't agree that censorship causes the Chinese population to be simpletons. One need look only at the average person in free societies to conclude that Simpletoniaism survives quite well even with unfettered access to information and education.

completely spurious observation (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202014)

stupidity is the default condition. always was, always will be. the majority of a populace of any country, in any time period, past, present, and future, is dumb. no government policy you could ever devise will ever change this truth

your problem is that you have taken my point and inverted it: that somehow if what i say is true about china, then the liberal uncensored west must breeds geniuses. no, this is completely false and an act of deducing the most insane thing from my point about chinese government policy

a more accurate comparison starts with the observation that the majority in the liberal west are morons, obviously. the majority of any populace anywhere: usa, russia, france, india, middle east, south america, africa, etc: morons. but that's not the issue, nor the problem

the issue is taking your intelligent, or rather, potentially intelligent citizens, and ENSURING they remain stupid, with government policies. censorship leads to unchallenged, weak, flabby minds. of course there are plenty of conditions in the usa, for example, that means that some intelligent kids will never fully spread their wings, and will remain stupid. but this is a LOT different than a chinese governmental policy that PURPOSEFULLY forces their intelligent children to stay ignorant

you can't make dumb people smart. however, you CAN make smart people dumb. in analogy: no amount of sunlight and water will make a weak seed into a strong oak. but if you have a strong seed, but fail to give it water and sunlight, you will have a stunted tree

or said more poetically: you can't make lead bricks fly, but you can most definitely pop balloons

They should have split the difference... (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201680)

Turn the proxies over to another authority or company like a European ISP and make Opera Mini customizable to go back to using proxies like those.

Ok, so go develop something better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30201744)

If people are so worked up over this, why not develop a browser that cannot be censored instead of posting to Slashdot?

goodluckwiththat (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202294)

"why not develop a browser that cannot be censored"

This is one of those things that *sounds* good, but I suspect that in practice, is rather implausible. Even if, technologically, you could do something like a browser which uses TOR or something similar to get around the firewall, anyone in China using it would probably be at risk of being thrown in prison or beaten or something, using it. Now, if they want to take that risk, more power to them. I suspect, people being people, that most Chinese would rather use the 'censored' browser, and take advantage of what limited freedom of communication that gives them, than to risk severe penalties for using a 'contraband' browser.

For browser vendors like Opera, I really feel like, even with capitulation with the "Great Firewall", they are still helping people. Why? If Opera didn't create the "Chinese" version of Opera Mini, it is entirely likely that China would completely block their rendering servers, and then people wouldn't be able to see *any websites at all* with Opera (although, that's a good argument for why you shouldn't use remote rendering, from a purely technological point of view; give me a real browser). But, be that as it may, even censored Web access is, I think, probably better for freedom and human rights than no web access at all, because I'm sure the government can't censor 100% of 'unapproved' speech 100% of the time, and even if they could, history shows us that people are remarkably good at 'working the system', to get speech past the censors which is either borderline, or coded, or has multiple levels of meaning.

Would Opera really serve people in China better, by not participating in China at all? Possibly. It's a tough call. One that I'm perfectly willing to leave to the Opera management and employees. Sure, maybe they are only interested in making a few Yuan, but I'll leave them the benefit of the doubt in this case.

12 Pieces of Silver (1)

ctdownunder (816383) | more than 4 years ago | (#30201762)

US republicans (and democrats) with their sub set of wacky right wing christian religious nuts are very quick to forget their anti communist beliefs when money is involved.

Even the more educated Slashdot crowd is very "pragmatic" with China.

China sucks not because it is a communist state, it sucks because it is a police state. But who cares, if we can make a buck, we can all ignore in bliss the Chinese government's peccadilloes.

Fascist, communist, fake democratic national security states (Australia/UK/Russia/USA etc.), all the same crap. Sell your soul for your bank owned plastic McMansion and your cool cars. Let's just leave it to the "free" market, who cares about politics anyway.

Re:12 Pieces of Silver (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202076)

Fascist, communist, fake democratic national security states (Australia/UK/Russia/USA etc.), all the same crap. Sell your soul for your bank owned plastic McMansion and your cool cars.

Sure. What did my soul ever do for me, anyway? Unfortunately, nobody seems to want it; they used to prefer small green pieces of paper, but lately they've been preferring other colors and chunks of precious metals.

Re:12 Pieces of Silver (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202372)

How does not having any kind of access to Opera Mobile/Google/etc helps the people in China, compared to having a censored version?

Some in China have access (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 4 years ago | (#30202266)

All the people involved in their cyber warfare units under the direction of the Third and Fourth Departments of the PLA department of the General Staff have access out the outside world, specifically our networks (if you read the latest reports, the level of penetration is appalling). Of course, since almost 95% of the members of the cadre are either members of the Communist Party or their youth movement, I doubt they're gonna go browsing around CNN or Fox News.
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