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Greatfire Keeps Tabs On Chinese Censorship, Automatically

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the perhaps-too-automatically dept.

Censorship 30

First time accepted submitter percyalpha writes "Greatfire is a website that automatically monitors Internet censorship in China. Recently, we improved our system to share all testing data with Herdict, a project at Harvard University on Internet blockages. User reports on Herdict of websites inaccessible in China are automatically imported into our system, and our data of websites blocked in China is also exported into the Herdict database. If you ever explore the first ten pages of the Herdict database, chances are all block reports are from China and imported from our system."

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well... about that... (5, Interesting)

Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) | more than 2 years ago | (#41102715)

An old employee of mine was Chinese, she was a international student and now again lives in China. I put forward this 'digital great wall of China' argument in an conversation, about it was killing free speech, democracy, human rights etc. She told told me that she just couldn't comprehend. She was living in the west now for about 3 years or so, enough to have a good taste of 'western values'.
Her point was: <quote>The west has Muslims with their hatespeech towards jews, and all is well because they are a miority, but if the same thing is said by (white) neo-nazi's then suddenly it is wrong. The western politicians basically tell you what you can or cannot hear, and it is fine. But, the second OUR government decides that WE are not allowed to hear something, THEN it is all wrong. What kind of a double standard is that?<unquote>
Then I tried to tell her that I dont want the government to get involved in freedom of speech AT ALL. One can disagree about something, but then lets agree to disagree. This was also strange to her, because: <quote>You chose those people to speak up for you right?? That is what you call democracy isn't it?<unquote>
I dont want to start a flamewar here, just give it a thought, try to see it from their perspective.
I felt almost felt sorry for her, being between hammer and anvil.

Re:well... about that... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41102755)

Your anecdote sounds incredibly fake. I work with many Chinese people, some coming over and recently as a year ago and none of them feel this way. All of them know how to bypass the firewall easily with proxies.

Re:well... about that... (1)

Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) | more than 2 years ago | (#41102813)

Well mister AC, it actually IS an anecdote. I shouldn't have to tell you that my post wasn't a academic dissertation do I? Again, no trolling intended.

Re:well... about that... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41102789)

Why are you antagonizing your employees?

Count yourself lucky you didnt pick up a racial discrimination and/or sexual harassment suit, grow the fuck up, and learn how to be a decent employer.

Re:well... about that... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41102963)

I agree completely! Having discussions with your co-workers about their ideas and culture is UNACCEPTABLE. The other day we were asking one of our Australian co-workers about some of the dangerous animals over there... I'm surprised the whole company wasn't fired over this complete violation of human rights!

Re:well... about that... (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#41103777)

they'll just send in the drop-bears.

Re:well... about that... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41104253)

Having discussions with your co-workers about their ideas and culture is UNACCEPTABLE.

If I had to guess I would say you are from the US. In other countries people have other set of values.

Some examples:
- I don't care a bit about being politically incorrect.
- I am not secretly racist, I am openly racist.
- I use public transportation and not because I'm poor.
- I don't sue the owner of a store when I slip in it.
- I don't own a gun or know anybody who owns one.

Well, you got the idea, you people are a bit insane. I wouldn't care much about it, except for the big influence you have on the rest of the world because of your movies and tv shows.

Re:well... about that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41115829)

I suppose your country does not have sarcasm either...

Re:well... about that... (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#41103561)

The moment an islamofascism rams a jet through a building inside China is the moment they win the war for us. The Chinese do not fear political correctness like American's do. I'm sure if George S. Patton was alive today, he would agree.

Re:well... about that... (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#41103787)

which is probably why the Chinese tend to mostly have gripes with peace-loving types.

Why should you feel sorry for her? (0)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#41103611)

I mean, who are you to "feel sorry for her" ?

You are, Sir, in the same situation as your Chinese friend

We all know that China actively censor the Net, and most importantly, China isn't denying that they censor the Internet

But on the other hand, how about the so-called "democratic West" ?

How sure are you that there isn't any censorship?

The level of Net censorship could be way lower than that of China, but I assure you, there _ARE_ censorship being carried out

Rightly or wrongly, closing down a website for "violation of laws" - be it piracy or hatespeech or child pornography or terrorism or whatever - is censorship

Do not feel sorry for your Chinese friend, Sir

Feel sorry for yourself, instead

At the very least, your Chinese friend does understand that her government practices censorship and with that knowledge, she can (if she wants to) learn techniques to break the state imposed censorship

On the other hand, you, Sir, because of your attitude of "The West Is Perfect, We Never Censor Anything", is already losing out on A LOT OF STUFFS (good and bad) that your government has decided that its better that you do not know about
 

Re:well... about that... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41104335)

Well, I feel sorry for her too. I am a Chinese, lived in US for several years, living in China right now. I am so sick of these communism sh*t, even bloomberg.com and businessweek.com are being blocked in China right now, how sick is this? a goal of mine is to change my nationality to a free country someday, just can't stand it any longer.

Your friend, just like billions of Chinese, got brain washed so badly. You might think 3 years living in a free country, she will get a good taste of freedom, but the sad truth is, some less smart ones are just not intelligent enough to understand what freedom really means.

No country is perfect, US is not, but if you had a good taste of China, US is perfect enough.

Re:well... about that... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41104633)

I am a Chinese, lived in US for several years, living in China right now...a goal of mine is to change my nationality to a free country someday, just can't stand it any longer.
No country is perfect, US is not, but if you had a good taste of China, US is perfect enough.

Kind of wondering why you went back?
Are you into masochism?

As a prospective American citizen, be warned that every individual must provision a minimum of $50,000 (some content it's more like $250,000) as payment towards the American national debt that every man, woman, and child owes to countries such as China ironically.

Re:well... about that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41105943)

Sad when people having a different opinion on something automatically becomes "just not intelligent enough to understand what freedom really means."

That if anything is a very "children in a sandbox" level argument. If you truly believed in freedom, then you'd believe just as much in her freedom to prefer the Chinese system. That is what "freedom really means".

Re:well... about that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41106477)

I don't know how many brain washed people you've met, but it's not her freedom to prefer the Chinese system. She's been brain washed and listening to lies most her life, it's a result of long time brain damage by communist party. I believe many North Korean still think they are the luckiest people in the world and would you believe in North Korean's freedom to prefer North Korean system? fundamentally, China is only a richer North Korean with looser control. in a country like this, many people simply don't know what freedom really is. what the lady said was exactly what we see and hear from the media here which are full of lies. after 3 years living in US, and still thinks this way, I can only say she's damaged badly. and I do think 3 years is long enough for a smart one to undo all the damages by the communist party.

Interpret Censorship as Damage and Route Around It (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41103109)

Now that someone's done this, the next logical step is to build an iterative probe to assess precisely what does and doesn't get censored, and why. From there we can make the jump to an app for sneaking past the great firewall.

Re:Interpret Censorship as Damage and Route Around (5, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#41104045)

I don't think this is a problem for the Chinese dissidents. Heck, just look at the number of Chinese who come to the west to study abroad and still go back to China willingly. The Chinese dissidents who want to read uncensored news easily have the ability to. From what I've observed life in "communist" China seems to be like how life was in the later part of "communist" Russia, that the government pretends to control them and they pretend to be controlled.

The thing is, China is a whole lot more collectivist than the US where even if they had the ability to do something, they wouldn't because they've been told lies all their life about how you've got to give up freedoms to have prosperity for others...

They have been told lies all their life (0)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#41104159)

... they've been told lies all their life

 
I find your description of the Chinese interesting, especially the above quoted part
 
The Chinese might have been lied to all their lives, but how about you guys, in your so-called "Western democracy"?
 
Are you sure you aren't been lied to, all your life?
 
Before pointing your finger at others, try take a good look at thyself first
 

Re:Interpret Censorship as Damage and Route Around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41104529)

they've been told lies all their life about how you've got to give up freedoms to have prosperity for others

umm isn't that what the DHS, TSA, FBI, ATF.. been trying to ramrod down our throats lately?
Looks like the Chicoms are ahead of the curve here.

Also, c'mon, how can you argue with success.
In case you haven't checked lately, the Chinese are wildly successful and prosperous.
Looks like the likes of The Chinese Great Firewall is rather conducive to success and prosperity.
It's kind of funny we western deadbeat spendthrifts find it appropriate to criticize an administration that is actually getting it right.

greatfire.org is yet another one of these amorphous existence with no obvious revenue model other than purported altruistic aspirations. Except somebody is paying the bills to be an amorphous existence with no obvious revenue model.
Although their altruism should perhaps be extended to countries that actually need our help, instead of the one country in the world that's actually doing well.
Countries such as India perhaps? Several European states? And let's not kid ourselves the United States is the biggest blackhole in the world right now in so many ways.

We Know What China Censors (3, Interesting)

ideonexus (1257332) | more than 2 years ago | (#41104467)

Actually, NPR ran a story on this recently. It turns out China doesn't really censor criticism of the government, but they do censor attempts to organize [npr.org] . If you want to call the Chinese government a corrupt evil organization, the censors will usually allow it, but if you want to have a barbecue and invite more than 10 people to it, they will take that content down.

This actually groks with what I've seen on the Chinese version of twitter/facebook weibo [weibo.com] . There's plenty of criticism of government organizations some fair and some I was surprised the censors were allowing (my favorite innocuous criticisms were in a thread on school buses after a crash killed a dozen children, where many commenters were posting pictures of American school buses (which look like tanks) and saying we were doing it right), but I have never seen anything about attending concerts, parties, or other public events. I didn't think anything of it until reading the NPR article.

Re:We Know What China Censors (3, Informative)

ideonexus (1257332) | more than 2 years ago | (#41104687)

Hmmm... Unfortunately, looking at the list of blocked URLs [greatfire.org] does provide examples of censorship of political dissent. Mostly I see facebook, twitter, most google services blocked, netflix, porn sites, piratebay, more porn sites, wikimedia, and Chinese Wikipedia. My amateur opinion would be that these blocks are due to porn being illegal there and the government eliminating access to websites that compete with their own services and social networks that the government cannot oversee.

There's also a bunch of blogger and wordpress.com blogs. While many of these have titles making them sound related to China, I'm not understanding many of the censors, like this poetry site [wordpress.com] which is simply artsy, this blog about a teacher who loves Chinese culture and is visiting the country [wordpress.com] , and this pro-China pro-Communism site [wordpress.com] and others that have no content posted to them at all like sinologica [wordpress.com] .

There are a few that do appear to possibly be blocked for challenging the government, like X in China [wordpress.com] (link is to a post listing blocked Weibo words), SmurfWillBeFree [wordpress.com] (a free Tibet blog), a blog focused on bad economic news about China [sinocism.com] , and wikipedia articles on Chinese political issues [greatfire.org] (ie "Dalai Lama", "Tank Man", etc).

This is just my quick random sampling of a few dozen sites out of 2163, so take it with a grain of salt. At some point a plurality of anecdotes becomes data, and this post doesn't come anywhere near that threshhold, but it does provide some nuance to the NPR article I cited above.

Re:We Know What China Censors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41107931)

... My amateur opinion would be that these blocks are due to porn being illegal there and the government eliminating access to websites that compete with their own services and social networks that the government cannot oversee.

It seems to me that it would be interesting to learn more about the censors (the employees). How are they trained, what are they supposed to be looking for, how many people are doing the work, what kind of person would take this job? Do the censors have a hard or soft "quota" to maintain? If they are expected to maintain a certain "productivity" and block 1000 sites/month (wild guess), this might explain some of the randomness to the process.

Re:Interpret Censorship as Damage and Route Around (1)

Havenwar (867124) | more than 2 years ago | (#41105955)

An app to sneak past the great firewall? There are thousands. I'd start by suggesting TOR, which is designed partly for the purpose and has no problems with it.

It isn't just politics (3, Insightful)

RobertinXinyang (1001181) | more than 2 years ago | (#41103183)

What to website fails to capture is economic censorship. This is the restricting of bandwidth in order to push users to domestic services. The target website is still accessible; but, it works poorly. This has the effect of pushing users to domestically owned competitors.

An example would be Google. While Google is accessible much of the time, and note that I did not say all of the time, following links from Google is often impossible. This has the effect of pushing users to Baidu, an underdeveloped Google clone that is popular, and owned in, China.

Another example is Photobucket. While the website in the article claims it is no censored, it is not usable. Links between pages do not work so it is impossible to sign in and pictures can only be accessed by typing in their exact URL. While it will return a ping, it is not being given enough bandwidth to function properly. The restrictions on social websites, such as this, are not purely political. They are also driven by an attempt to push all traffic to the domestically owned (and really poor in usability) q-zone.

The articles website fails to capture the entire problem and fails to understand that the problem is not just politics. It is, as is seen so often elsewhere too, business colluding with government.

Re:It isn't just politics (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41103385)

There was a TED talk on this subject recently. I was very disappointed that it missed a very key word: "protectionism". There's a huge number of factors at play here, but certainly a lot of is about giving domestic providers an advantage. You'd hope the WTO would be more involved in dealing with this as it really is a trade issue.

Regarding the partial breakages, there is a good talk by Jacob Applebaum and Roger Dingledine on Tor censorship. They focus quite a bit on China, and how simply throttling a service is in some ways far harder to deal with than blocking entirely. Sadly, it looks like the state is getting a lot more clever about what they're doing. Certainly they're learning a subtlety and savviness that didn't exist before.

We do detect restriction (2)

percyalpha (2694545) | more than 2 years ago | (#41105315)

When the download speed in China is significantly lower than that of in U.S, we categorize those websites as restricted. https://en.greatfire.org/top-sites [greatfire.org] (Yellow instead of red)
About Google. Google is in fact accessible(might be slow) most of the time, at least until you search something with it. If your keywords accidentally contain restricted words [greatfire.org] , such as carrot in Chinese which contains one word of a commonly used family name, also a family name of one of the Chinese leaders, then your connection to any google page would be blocked for 90 seconds.

Bottom line (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41104257)

The hard, inescapable fact is that the recent success of Asian nations is linked entirely to their adoption of western ideas and western style government. (This is the part where PRC shills scream bloody murder, like when you mention tibet.)

I don't' care if china has a rich 5,000 year old culture. It is, at it's core, grossly inefficient. It allows the toxic institutionalization of corruption and exploitation under the guise of "culture". Corruption and exploration are nasty and inefficient economic mechanisms and society flourishes once they're abandoned.

CSV? (1)

alantus (882150) | more than 2 years ago | (#41104289)

So where is the URL to download the CSV automatically on a weekly basis and import it into my proxy?

Put everything through proxy! (1)

fufufang (2603203) | more than 2 years ago | (#41105111)

I forward all my traffic through a proxy service. I have a separate list for Chinese websites, their traffic does not go through the proxy. This way I don't have to worry about the new websites Chinese government decides to block.

There is a large Internet cultural difference between Chinese population and foreign population. A typical Chinese citizen never really needs to go over the firewall. Pretty much everything has a domestic version.

Another project by us (1)

percyalpha (2694545) | more than 2 years ago | (#41105159)

We recently developed another project to help web owners to unblock their websites in China. https://unblock.cn.com/ [cn.com] So if you ever find that your business site is blocked due to collateral damage, e.g:you share the same host with another blocked website, feel free to unblock it.
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