Collateral Freedom FAQ

We have spent the latter part of 2013 implementing collateral freedom in China and explaining the concept to those that are interested. Here are answers to some of the most common questions surrounding our plan to end online censorship in China.

 

1. You are just creating mirror web sites and they will get blocked.

We are creating more than mirror web sites. What we are doing is leveraging the global cloud infrastructure by creating ‘unblockable’ mirrors via unblockable cloud services. This approach would not have been possible five years ago because Amazon and other companies offering cloud hosting did not have the critical mass of clients necessary. A critical mass is needed because China will clearly see that blocking all access to Amazon AWS, for example, would have devastating economic consequences inside of China. Five years ago, not that many people were using cloud hosting so the government could afford to block the Amazon domain - today, that is possible, but highly unlikely.

Amazon AWS clients in China include Qihu 360, Xiaomi, FunPlus Game, Mobotap, TCL, Hisense, Tiens, Kingsoft and Light in the Box.

 

2. Some major companies use Amazon to host their websites but they are blocked in China. How is your approach different?

That is because the urls for those companies are DNS poisoned. One of the pitfalls of our approach is that we will have to use the s3.amazonaws.com domain name to host all unblockable mirror web sites, like https://s3.amazonaws.com/cn.reuters/index.html. But the positives far outweigh the negatives - having an unblockable url means more than having an easy to remember but blocked website. Plus, organisations can use their social media channels to promote their new domain. While the weibos may get deleted or censored, once the message is shared, the url will also be shared and has the potential to reach a much larger audience. We have also started a directory of mirror websites that we are hosting in China on Github - the link to this directory is also unblockable. If a company wants to promote their new unblockable url, they could also purchase advertising sharing their new url that could run on Chinese language web sites.

 

3. China can selectively block urls, regardless of whether or not they are encrypted.

This is not true. The only way for China to block a url from an encrypted domain is to block the entire domain.

 

4. Companies won’t create unblockable websites in China because they have economic interests to protect.

That is something that we cannot control. We don’t know what the end will be for some of these stories (as is the case for Bloomberg). But what we can say is that advertising can be served on our unblockable mirrors, which means that ad dollars can be generated, which will certainly be of economic interest to some media organisations. Plus, how long are media organisations going to wait until they get access to China - and by that time, will it be worth it? We hope that it is not the ten year time period that Eric Schmidt believes in.

 

5. China will ask Amazon and others to remove your mirrors.

Amazon, Apple, GitHub and Microsoft are US companies that need to consider their reputations worldwide. The Chinese authorities will likely try to pressure them into censoring content on their behalf - it’s up to all of us to convince them that they should not. So far, Amazon has not taken down our mirror websites, GitHub has not taken down our content hosted there and Microsoft has not closed down our Azure servers - but Apple did remove our FreeWeibo app from the China App Store. The more important the content provider is, the less likely we believe it is that any of these tech companies will censor them. Would Microsoft dare to censor the New York Times?

 

6. China will just block Amazon, The App Store, GitHub, etc. if you take this approach.

In early 2013, GitHub was blocked in China, after it had been used to gather support for a petition to ban contributors to the Great Firewall from traveling to the US. It’s clear that the authorities had a reason to block GitHub - but after only a couple of days, they unblocked it again. Why? There was an online protest against the blocking, including voices of influential people, and GitHub is an important tool for software developers in China. The content that the authorities disapproved of has not gone away - if anything, it has grown. But this has proved that the authorities are unable to block that content.

Similarly, the authorities have tried to block our mirror websites on S3 - but they have given up. Since we are using all of these platforms to implement collateral freedom - Amazon, GitHub, the App Store and Microsoft - they also know that to effectively stop us they have to block all of them. So far, even the cost of blocking GitHub was considered too high. Nothing is certain, but this is a strong indicator that our approach can be sustained.

 

7. Is it illegal for companies like Amazon and Google to host these unblockable mirror sites?

It is not against Chinese law to host such websites. There have been no court orders or legal edicts that have decreed websites such as Facebook, Twitter and the New York Times to be illegal. They are secretly blocked without any jurisdictional overview. The Chinese government could publicly declare those websites to be illegal and obtain court orders to support their claim. Then they can send those court orders to Google to ask them to restrict local access to specified websites, including our mirrors. Chinese law specifies that adult websites are not permitted; we fully respect that. However, there is no law prohibiting the use of Facebook or Wikipedia. Freedom of speech is written into the Chinese constitution. By providing access to such websites, we are upholding Chinese laws, not violating them.

 

Do you have other questions? Feel free to email Charlie Smith and we will post your questions and our answers here.

 

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星期四, 11月 30, 2017

关于在中国苹果商店被审查的那674个软件

苹果对中国区的审查行为敞开了大门 - 但这似乎只是冰山一角。

星期二, 5月 23, 2017

Is China establishing cyber sovereignty in the United States?

Last week Twitter came under attack from a DDoS attack orchestrated by the Chinese authorities. While such attacks are not uncommon for websites like Twitter, this one proved unusual. While the Chinese authorities use the Great Firewall to block harmful content from reaching its citizens, it now uses DDoS attacks to take down content that appears on websites beyond its borders. For the Chinese authorities, it is not simply good enough to “protect” the interests of Chinese citizens at home - in their view of cyber sovereignty, any content that might harm China’s interests must be removed, regardless of where the website is located.

And so last week the Chinese authorities determined that Twitter was the target. In particular, the authorities targeted the Twitter account for Guo Wengui (https://twitter.com/KwokMiles), the rebel billionaire who is slowly leaking information about corrupt Chinese government officials via his Twitter account and through his YouTube videos. Guo appeared to ramp up his whistle-blowing efforts last week and the Chinese authorities, in turn, ramped up theirs.

via https://twitter.com/KwokMiles/status/863689935798374401

星期一, 12月 12, 2016

China is the obstacle to Google’s plan to end internet censorship

It’s been three years since Eric Schmidt proclaimed that Google would chart a course to ending online censorship within ten years. Now is a great time to check on Google’s progress, reassess the landscape, benchmark Google’s efforts against others who share the same goal, postulate on the China strategy and offer suggestions on how they might effectively move forward.

flowers on google china plaque

Flowers left outside Google China’s headquarters after its announcement it might leave the country in 2010. Photo: Wikicommons.

What has Google accomplished since November 2013?

The first thing they have accomplished is an entire rebranding of both Google (now Alphabet) and Google Ideas (now Jigsaw). Throughout this blog post, reference is made to both new and old company names.

Google has started to develop two main tools which they believe can help in the fight against censorship. Jigsaw’s DDoS protection service, Project Shield, is effectively preventing censorship-inspired DDoS attacks and recently helped to repel an attack on Brian Krebs’ blog. The service is similar to other anti-DDoS services developed by internet freedom champions and for-profit services like Cloudflare.

星期四, 11月 24, 2016

Facebook: Please, not like this

Facebook is considering launching a censorship tool that would enable the world’s biggest social network to “enter” the China market. Sadly, nobody will be surprised by anything that Mark Zuckerberg decides to do in order to enter the China market. With such low expectations, Facebook is poised to usurp Apple as China’s favorite foreign intelligence gathering partner. If the company launches in China using this strategy they will also successfully erase any bargaining power that other media organizations may hold with the Chinese authorities.

星期二, 7月 05, 2016

GreatFire.org 现在开始测试VPN在中国的速度和稳定性

在中国有一个普遍观念,如果你有一个可以使用的VPN,那么你应该保持沉默。就信息自由而言,这种观念的问题在于获取知识竟成了一种秘密。今天,我们推出一个项目,希望能够摧毁这种模型。

我们最新的网站,翻墙中心,目的在于实时提供那些能够在中国使用的翻墙方案的信息和数据。在2011年以来我们就已经开始收集在中国被屏蔽的网站,现在我们也将增加那些可用的VPN和其他翻墙工具。

我们发布翻墙中心主要有四个目的。

我们的首要目标是助长使用翻墙工具的国人的数量。通过分享我们这些工具的信息和数据,我们希望对更广泛的受众展示那些工具时可以使用的。

我们的第二个目标是通过带来工具性能的透明化来提升中国用户的翻墙体验。我们将会测试工具的速度(流行网站的加载速度)和稳定性(流行网站加载成功的程度)。

我们开发速度测试的目的是要真实反映用户的体验。当用户在网站测速时,浏览器在后台会从10个世界上最流行的网站上下载一些资源文件。根据Alexa排名,这些网站分别是Google, Facebook, YouTube, Baidu, Amazon, Yahoo, Wikipedia, QQ, Twitter and Microsoft Live。速度的结果是简单的计算下载文件文件的大小和下载所需的时间。我们同样也会验证下载的文件是否完整。如果文件的内容是错误的或者在40秒内无法完成下载,我们会标记为失败。这个数据被我们用来生成另一个重要指标-稳定性。

其他的速度测试工具仅仅是通过发送数据到它们自己的服务器来测量上传和下载的速度。这种数据无法反应用户的体验,因为正常的浏览器通常会频繁的发送一系列的请求(而不是上传或下载一个大文件)到许多的服务器,而不止是一个。

我们的第二个指标 - 稳定性 - 是其他的服务通常不会测试的。一个健康的互联网连接应该达到100%的稳定性,除非有人在测试中把网线拔了。但是在中国使用翻墙工具却不是这样。任何时候连接都有可能变得不稳定或十分缓慢。根据请求的大小,最终的地点和代理的方式,一些请求有可能会失败。比较服务的稳定性要比比较速度更加重要。

你可以测试任意的翻墙工具,列表之外的也可以。中国的VPN用户也可以测试他们的工具,测试结果也会添加到数据库中。这些数据都将会对所有人开放。实时的在中国测试是非常重要的,因为VPN随时都可能被封锁或解封。我们欢迎任何的关于测试过程的反馈。有技术能力的用户也可以通过审查我们的javascript代码来获悉我们的测试是如何工作的。

我们郑重的邀请翻墙工具的开发者们向我们提供测试过程的反馈。我们的第三个目标是帮助这些开发人员改进他们的产品,让更多的选择适用于中国的顾客。此外,越多的工具可以工作,就意味着中国当局对翻墙的打击就会越难。

中国的用户都知道,在过去的18个月中当局加紧了对翻墙工具的攻击。而翻墙中心将会吹响反击的号角。反其道而行之,让这不再成为秘密。我们要鼓励人们分享翻墙工具可以工作的信息。

我们的第四个目标就是要为GreatFire.org创造收益。目前GreatFire仍然依靠世界各地的热心人士和组织的捐款。我们希望减少对这些机构的依赖,并探寻GreatFire.org自给自足的道路。用户只需到翻墙中心就能购买任意一款我们目前在测试的付费工具。GreatFire将作为这些工具在中国的经销商,因此VPN供应商会给予我们每个零售的一部分。用户也不必在中国购买这些翻墙服务。

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