Many internet sites are censored (i.e. access is blocked) in mainland China and I have often wondered if munKNEE.com was one of them let alone all those other much more provocative sites out there. If you are curious as to whether or not any of the sites you visit are, in fact, censored in mainland China then check out the following site where you can find out immediately. Words: 1382
By Lorimer Wilson, editor of www.munKNEE.com
Why should I have been concerned about whether or not munKNEE.com was one of those being censored by the authorities there? Well, I spent a month in China travelling extensively to get an on-the-ground first hand and in-depth understanding of the health of its economy and its prospects for the future. Since then a number of posts on munKNEE.com have not presented favourable views of the country so, with 137 million potential readers (granted not all of them can read English!) at stake, I often wondered if the information in the articles on munKNEE.com was getting through. Now I know thanks to www.greatfirewallofchina.org.
Visit www.greatfirewallofchina.org and type in the site you are curious about and in seconds you will know if it is blocked in any of the districts of mainland China.
The Aim of www.greatfirewallofchina.org is to be a watchdog and keep track of which, and how many or how many times, sites are censored. They also help to keep the censorship transparent as each blocked website is automatically added to the great firewall on their homepage.
The following comments come from an article by GteatFireWallOfChina.org which is presented below in an edited ([ ]) and abridged (…) to ensure you a fast and easy read.
How it works: We’ve opened a website in China and route your url request on www.greatfirewallofchina.org through to our server in China. The server in China opens the url and the result is sent back. Our testing is only based on one server in one location in China. We have different backup servers in different locations in China in case one might go down. Other locations and other servers may give you different access to the various websites.
About GreatFireWallOfChina.org: We are a non-profit group of creatives such as web designers, documentary film directors and journalists who want to make the censorship system is transparent and keep open the discussion on censorship.
Frequently asked questions:
- Will I stay anonymous if I test a site? YES, we will never share your email address with any third party.
- Who is censoring? The Chinese government has a tradition of keeping its watchful eye on all media. Since the rapid growth of the World Wide Web in the 1990s they have constantly invented new ways of censorship to control the world’s most democratic medium, the Internet, as well. Not everything on the Internet, readily available elsewhere, can be accessed from within China.
- How does Internet censoring work? It is estimated that some 30,000 Chinese civil servants are monitoring Internet traffic and blocking content that is deemed undesirable. Typing in sensitive keywords such as “democracy”, “Falun Gong”, “pornography” [or even, from my own personal experience over there, the word “union”] in a search engine results in an error message. Websites of a sensitive nature are being blocked. Internet service providers also (self)censor, as do individuals (many people do not express their real thoughts because they know these will be censored anyway).
- Is only the Internet being censored? No, the same goes for radio, television, films, and books. Internet censorship concerns itself mostly with websites and personal weblogs.
- Will Internet censorship ever change? Remarkably, censorship in China is constantly changing. Content that was banned yesterday, may be available today and tomorrow may be banned again. Likewise, it is not always clear what exactly is allowed from one day to the next. Generally speaking, though, one can safely assume that freetibet.org, for example, will be blocked more often than not.
- How do the people of China counter this? The Chinese are very resourceful in this. A site about popular movie stars may become a vehicle for discussing delicate political issues. Among Chinese ‘nerds’ hacking systems are circulating that completely bypass censorship, but you must be knowledgeable enough to download these from non-blocked sites. Then there are weblogs that appear to discuss dogs but are in fact describing the political situation in China.
- What about Wikipedia? Good question! Wikipedia has been blocked for ages.
- Can Internet censorship happen in my country? Yes, of course but then it is called ‘filtering’. You can apply censorship yourself, for instance by installing a children’s filter in your browser, in the same way a government may decide it is “better for you” not to visit certain sites.
- Why should I be bothered? Surely you wouldn’t want a censored Internet to become the standard? For 137 million Chinese this is already a reality. That’s why you should be bothered!
- Will this site be blocked as well, eventually? Yes, we suppose so, but we have backup systems for this eventuality, and we won’t explain to you in detail how this works, and you can understand why, can’t you?
- Are Western companies engaging in censorship in China? Yes. Products such as yahoo.cn and google.cn adhere to the rules of official Chinese censorship. In other words, not everything you search for with google.cn is available. These companies argue that if you wish to do business in a particular country, you must obey its rules.
- Are you associated with any human rights organisation? No. The Great Firewall of China is a private initiative by its makers.
- Once again: who is censoring in China? Censorship is practiced by various interest groups at various levels: The government, who regulates the internet by means of an extensive arsenal of laws and administrative regulations. Foreign, i.e. Western, internet providers such as google.cn and yahoo.cn who argue that if you wish to do business in China, you must obey its rules. The Chinese commercial internet providers, who also have to adhere to government rules. The moderators of Chinese chat rooms & discussion forums, who block “sensitive” postings. The cyber cafes; everyone who wishes to go online in an internet cafe is obliged to register beforehand.
This ‘voluntary compliance’ with existing regulations can have major consequences. According to ‘Reporters Sans Frontieres’, in 2003 dissident Jiang Lijun was sentenced to four years imprisonment for ‘undermining the state’. His conviction was based on a draft email found on his Yahoo page. This draft contained proposals for a more democratic China, which, according to the prosecution, could be regarded as taking part in “subversive activities that aim to undermine the authority of the Communist Party”. Yahoo provided the necessary data to convict Jiang.
- What about blogging? According to state media, by the end of 2006 there were 20.8 million bloggers in China. Blogging, which implies venting your own opinions, has become immensely popular in China. In order to control the phenomenon the government wants blog users to register under their real name. A resourceful Chinese individual created this loophole: www.adoptablog.org. Adopt a Chinese blog, and help keep these bloggers online – anonymously.
- Can the Great Firewall be by-passed by technical means? Both from within and from outside of China several academics, security experts and hackers are trying to hack the great firewall. Western academics came up with ways to circumvent the Great Firewall. Results so far are promising, but the question remains how long it will take the Chinese government to come up with counter measures. Another question is if the average person online can easily apply these methods.
- What if people persist in distributing ‘sensitive’ information via their websites or blogs? According to ‘Reporters Sans Frontières’, in September 2006, 50 cyber dissidents were held in Chinese prisons, as far as we know. Prison sentences vary from 3 to 10 years.
- www.opennetinitiative.org THE organization that deals with internet censorship i.e. internet filtering worldwide.
- http://irrepressible.info An initiative by Amnesty to sign a pledge on internet freedom.
- www.globalvoicesonline.org News gathering not through regular media, but through bloggers, photo sharing sites, internet worldwide.
- http://www.rsf.org An organisation that defends press freedom worldwide and aims to inform those parts of the world where there is no full freedom of the press.
Important disclaimer: This version 1.0 may report sites as being ‘blocked’, while there are only technical reasons for their unavailability. The Great Firewall of China’s aim is to collaboratively build a community that will be able to visualize Internet censorship in an increasingly accurate way.
Hat tip: http://www.greatfirewallofchina.org/index.php?siteurl=alsosprachanalyst.com
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