Software can bypass China’s “Great Firewall” but hard to get inside country

Two years ago the Citizen Lab released a program called Psiphon, which allows users in countries such as China and Iran to circumvent their governments’ Internet censorship. The free software uses computers outside the censoring country — known as proxies — to fetch web pages and send them back over encrypted connections. The technique is also used by a host of other tools, but Deibert says the goal was to make it as user-friendly as possible.

From the Canadian Press

China’s Overeager American Censors

Published on
June 20, 2008

Practically every U.S.-owned search engine has caved to the Chinese government’s demands that they censor political Web sites in China. But none of them seem to agree on just what sites need censoring. Google, at times, blocks Chinese users’ access to the BBC while Yahoo! permits it. Yahoo! sometimes filters out Voice of America–Google doesn’t. And Microsoft removes entries from the Chinese version of Wikipedia from its results while every other search engine includes them–even the dominant Chinese search engine

Confused? So are the search engines themselves, says Nart Villeneuve, a researcher at the University of Toronto’s Open Net Initiative. In a study released on Wednesday, he points to the wild variation in search engine censorship in China as a sign that the Chinese government isn’t handing companies a uniform list of censored sites but leaving them to guess at which sites are contraband.
In a congressional hearing before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on Wednesday, ONI director Ron Deibert held up the study as evidence of the complicity of U.S. firms in China’s control of the media. Worse, he argued, they seemed to be doing more than China’s dictators required to repress information.

“This kind of self-selection raises the prospect of anticipatory over-blocking, in which content not officially blocked by China ends up being filtered because of the eagerness of search engines,” Deibert said.

Read the entire article here

Read the my testimony to US Congress here

Read Nart’s research paper here

Testimony to US Congress

I am testifying to US Congress today, at the US China Economic and Security Review Commission. My testimony covers the research of the OpenNet Initiative on Internet censorship practices in China, the range and effectiveness of circumvention methods, including our own tool — psiphon, and the role of US and Western corporations in aiding and supporting Internet censorship in China. My full testimony can be downloaded here.

CBC The Current

I was a guest on CBC’s The Current on Friday. The show begins with a focus on the Yahoo case involving Wang Xiaoning and Shi Taoi who are currently serving 10 year sentences for subversion based on records Yahoo turned over to Chinese authorities.

You can listen to the interview here

China Web Registration Regulation OpenNet Initiative Bulletin 11

The OpenNet Initiative has just released a new bulletin on China’s Web registration regulations. These new regulations add yet additional threads to the country’s web of constraints on freedom of speech. By requiring citizens to register their blogs and websites, and shutting down the sites of those who do not comply, the Chinese authorities are effectively augmenting the already stifling climate of self-censorship and suspicion that exists for online communications in that country. By requiring website operators to register their personal information with the Ministry of Information Industry, these controls intimidate users of the Internet and allow the state to more effectively keep tabs on online content

China Google Search Compare

In an effort to tailor its services to the requirements of China’s Internet filtering regime, Google announced last week that it had created a special version of its search engine for the China market,

Our OpenNet Initiative team put together a neat little search comparison tool that you can access here that allows you to enter in search term and keywords and see the variation in results between and side by side.