We Had Our Arguments, But We Will Miss You Wikipedia

On June 12, 2015, Wikimedia announced that they would start the process of fully encrypting Wikipedia for users everywhere in the world. They expect that the process will be completed before the end of this month. Coincidentally, on May 19, 2015 both the encrypted and unencrypted Chinese-language versions of Wikipedia were blocked in China, ending what has been a complicated censorship situation for the world's most important online resource.

There was a time that when blocking access to one of the world's top ten most visited sites would raise alarm bells and draw scorns of criticism. But with the blocking of Wikipedia, that attention seems to have dissipated. While it is true that Wikipedia has been blocked and unblocked before, it is unlikely that the Chinese language site will be unblocked again. Furthermore, given the current environment in China, it is likely that all language versions of Wikipedia sites will soon be blocked in China.

There is a history to this story and other foreign internet properties that are looking to the China market should take note.

Foreign companies that "re-entered" the China market in the early 90s, after the June, 1989 Tiananmen incident had slipped from the headlines, often faced criticism for their decision to return so soon. But these companies were taking a long-term view on China and could see that the market for their goods and services and the lure of affordable production costs was too great to keep them away.

In response to the criticism, most companies repeated the same boilerplate mantras - "Engagement with China will be more effective than isolationism." "Over time, China will change and will gradually open up." "We have to enter the China market on China's terms."

It's been 26 years since the night of June 4 and while there has been much positive change for the average Chinese citizen, many discussions are still taboo. What's more, we have not seen an "opening up" when it comes to freedom of access to information. The numbers of websites that are being blocked continues to increase. Even websites that we have long felt were too important to block have been rendered inaccessible from China. Domestic censorship controls have silenced Chinese-language discussions about "sensitive" topics. The authorities have even extended these measures beyond China's borders.

Since May, 2014, when Google was outright blocked, we have seen an unprecedented ramping up of internet controls in China. Web and mobile properties like Line, KaoKao Talk, Flickr and Microsoft One Drive have joined Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on the blocked list. Large scale man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks have been launched on Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Apple, putting sensitive user information at risk. There has been an intense crackdown on VPNs (virtual private networks) used to circumvent the great firewall, making it increasingly difficult even for companies to access the most basic and essential online services. The Chinese authorities have even developed and deployed a cyber weapon that can bring down websites outside of China, even if their citizens are unable to access them in the first place.

Wikipedia is just the latest nail in the internet freedom coffin and it certainly will not be the last. Wikipedia thought that by engaging with China, the authorities would gradually open up. They thought that by allowing the Chinese authorities to censor as much information as they wanted, that eventually they would relinquish control. They thought that for those in China, having access to some Wikipedia pages was better than having access to none.

But what actually happened was that the authorities effectively neutered Wikipedia, made it uninteresting to the average netizen with onerous censorship controls. Our tests show that of the 1200 Chinese language Wikipedia pages we monitor, the authorities have blocked access to 228 of them. Furthermore, Baidu's Baike actually has more content that the censored Chinese Wikipedia. Censorship destroyed what was unique about the Wikipedia offering. And now the site is blocked and it's like if a tree fell in the forest and there was nobody there to hear it.

While we have been critical of the organization's approach to China in the past, we stand with them in mourning the end of Wikipedia in China, as do many in academia who use the encyclopedia on a daily basis and rely on it for their studies.

The Chinese strategy on information control is working and is effective. But we hope that foreign firms will take notice of this episode (including you, LinkedIn) and plan their market strategy accordingly. In 2013, we felt that sites like Wikipedia and Google were too important to block. While this may have been true before Xi Jinping took power, this is no longer the case. We have been proven very wrong by the authorities. They have shown that they will not hesitate to block any website, under any conditions. As Jimmy Wales said in 2004 after Wikipedia was blocked for the first time in China:

It's a huge embarrassment for the censors if they block Wikipedia, because we are none of the things that they claim to want to censor. Censoring Wikipedia is an admission that it is unbiased factual information itself that frightens you. We are not political propaganda, we are not online gambling, we are not porn. We are an encyclopedia.

If the censors were ever embarrassed, they certainly are no longer. With the support of Xi Jinping, they are emboldened. And we expect to see the authorities take further steps to crack down on any website, mobile app or circumvention tool that allows Chinese citizens to freely access information. Rest in peace, Wikipedia. While we may have had our issues while you were around, we are going to miss you now that you are gone.

----

The GreatFire website provides tests to check the current availability of a website within China. The test links below show tests for Wikipedia in Chinese and English, for the encrypted and unencrypted sites.

https://en.greatfire.org/zh.wikipedia.org
https://en.greatfire.org/https/zh.wikipedia.org
https://en.greatfire.org/www.wikipedia.org
https://en.greatfire.org/https/www.wikipedia.org

 

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星期一, 8月 03, 2020

Announcing the Release of GreatFire Appmaker

GreatFire (https://en.greatfire.org/), a China-focused censorship monitoring organization, is proud to announce that we have developed and released a new anti-censorship tool that will enable any blocked media outlet, blogger, human rights group, or civil society organization to evade censors and get their content onto the phones of millions of readers and supporters in China and other countries that censor the Internet.

GreatFire has built an Android mobile app creator, called “GreatFire AppMaker”, that can be used by organizations to unblock their content for users in China and other countries. Organizations can visit a website (https://appmaker.greatfire.org/) which will compile an app that is branded with the organization’s own logo and will feature their own, formerly blocked content. The app will also contain a special, censorship-circumventing web browser so that users can access the uncensored World Wide Web. The apps will use multiple strategies, including machine learning, to evade advanced censorship tactics employed by the Chinese authorities.  This project will work equally well in other countries that have China-like censorship restrictions. For both organizations and end users, the apps will be free, fast, and extremely easy to use.

This project was inspired by China-based GreatFire’s first-hand experience with our own FreeBrowser app (https://freebrowser.org/en) and desire to help small NGOs who may not have the in-house expertise to circumvent Chinese censorship. GreatFire’s anti-censorship tools have worked in China when others do not. FreeBrowser directs Chinese internet users to normally censored stories from the app’s start page (http://manyvoices.news/).

星期五, 7月 24, 2020

Apple, anticompetition, and censorship

On July 20, 2020, GreatFire wrote to all 13 members of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, requesting a thorough examination into Apple’s practice of censorship of its App Store, and an investigation into how the company collaborates with the Chinese authorities to maintain its unique position as one of the few foreign tech companies operating profitably in the Chinese digital market.  

This letter was sent a week before Apple CEO TIm Cook will be called for questioning in front of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. The CEOs of Amazon, Google and Facebook will also be questioned on July 27, as part of the Committee’s ongoing investigation into competition in the digital marketplace.

This hearing offers an opportunity to detail to the Subcommittee how Apple uses its closed operating ecosystem to not only abuse its market position but also to deprive certain users, most notably those in China, of their right to download and use apps related to privacy, secure communication, and censorship circumvention.

We hope that U.S. House representatives agree with our view that Apple should not be allowed to do elsewhere what would be considered as unacceptable in the U.S. Chinese citizens are not second class citizens. Private companies such as Apple compromise themselves and their self-proclaimed values of freedom and privacy when they collaborate with the Chinese government and its censors.

星期一, 6月 10, 2019

苹果审查中国西藏的信息

苹果在涉及西藏的审查方面有着悠久历史。 2009年,据计算机世界网透露 ,与达赖喇嘛有关的几个应用程序在苹果的中国区应用商店中不存在。这些应用的开发者未收到他们的应用被删除的通知。当面对这些审查制度时,苹果发言人只是说该公司将“继续遵守当地法律”。

2017年12月,在中国的一次会议上,当被问及与中国当局合作审查苹果应用商店时,蒂姆·库克 宣称

“所以你的选择是参与进去,还是站在局外,吼叫着事情应当怎样?我自己的看法非常强烈,你得进入赛场,因为没有任何东西会从局外发生改变。"

自苹果公司首次因与中国当局合作以遏制已被边缘化的声音而被批评的十年间,情况发生了什么变化?苹果继续严格遵守中国当局的审查令。蒂姆库克什么时候会期望他的公司能帮助在中国带来积极的变化?

根据生成的数据 https://applecensorship.com,Apple现在已经审查了在中国应用商店中29个西藏的热门应用程序。关于新闻,宗教研究,旅游甚至游戏的西藏主题应用程序正在被苹果审查。最下方附有完整的审查应用列表。

“苹果的领导力隐藏在他们审查应用程序以遵守模糊的'中国当地法律'的借口,但他们的行为缺乏任何透明度。通过从中国苹果应用商店删除藏文和其他许多应用程序,苹果阻碍了藏人获取信息和自由表达自己的能力,这是国际法下的一项基本人权。“ TibCERT(西藏计算机应急准备小组)的响应协调员Dorjee Phuntsok说道。 他们与GreatFire合作对被屏蔽的应用程序进行了分析。

   2019年1月,GreatFire推出了applecensorship.com。在那时,GreatFire联合创始人马丁约翰逊指出:“苹果公司在其透明度报告中没有分享有关应用商店审查的信息 - 该项目强制透明度。蒂姆库克可以随心所欲地说苹果在中国做了或没有做什么,但 applecensorship.com 提供了可以实际看到苹果实施审查原始数据的途径。

分析苹果在中国审查的iOS应用程序

有许多应用程序由藏人或为藏人制作,苹果正在审查中国区应用商店中的许多应用程序。了解某些应用程序被阻止的方式和原因以及这些决策背后的基本原理非常重要。为了解这一点,TibCERT(西藏应急准备小组)对在中国应用商店中被审查的藏文应用程序进行了分析。该研究使用关键字搜索藏文应用程序,然后使用GreatFire提供的应用程序审查平台。

TibCERT分析了119个以藏语为主题的iOS应用程序。使用“西藏”,“藏人”,“达赖喇嘛”,“佛教”,“藏传佛教”,等关键词搜索苹果应用商店时,可以找到下面列出的应用程序。这些应用程序分为五大类:“宗教或文化”,“媒体/政治”,“娱乐”,“工具”和“教育”。

星期四, 6月 06, 2019

重点关注苹果在中国审查实践的报告

最新的 数字版权企业责任指数排名 就公司和政府需要做些什么来提出建议,以改善全球互联网用户的人权保护。数字版权排名(RDR)旨在通过为公司尊重和保护用户权利制定全球标准和激励措施,以促进互联网上的言论自由和隐私权。

在他们的2019年责任指数中,RDR着眼于24家世界上最重要的互联网公司在言论自由和隐私方面的政策,并强调了那些尚需努力和已经取得改进的公司。 RDR指出:

透明度不足使私人政党,政府和公司本身更容易通过网络言论滥用权力,并规避责任。

特别是,该报告强调了苹果如何滥用其网络言论的权力,并在中国指出这一点。根据该报告,苹果公司在面对政府当局提出的要求时,并未披露其从App Store中删除内容的数据。

虽然[苹果]披露了有关政府限制帐户请求的数据,但它没有披露有关内容删除请求的数据,例如从苹果应用商店删除应用程序的请求。苹果公司对其影响言论自由的政策和做法讳莫如深,这让它的排名低于此类别的所有其他美国公司。

该报告为政府提出了明智而感性的建议。然而,这些建议还强调了与中国政府进行这些讨论是多么的困难。

RDR 建议政府要求公司的透明度并保持透明度。中国当局采取相反的做法 - 他们不希望在这些问题上保持透明度,因为它突显了他们不希望公众了解的信息。当局不希望公司透明,他们可能直接指示Apple不发布他们正删除的内容列表。

苹果可能真的认为他们必须遵守中国的法律条文。或者他们也可能愿意分享有关App Store中被审查内容的信息,但有碍于被中国当局束手束脚。苹果还可能会利用这种情况作为他们打击中国言论自由的掩护。无论Apple的真实动机如何,透明度都能够并已经被强加给他们。

在2019年1月,GreatFire发布了 applecensorship.com。该项目监控Apple在公司运营的每个市场中对App Store的审查。应用程序的可用性测试由网站访问者进行。截至今天,用户生成的测试已经确定了 超过1100个 在中国应用商店中不可用的应用。在中国受审查的应用程序包括那些涉及宗教,新闻,隐私和翻墙的应用程序。通过审查有助于规避审查限制的应用程序,苹果确实的让中国人无法自由访问信息。苹果的中国用户或许认为他们买到的是一流的设备 - 但可以肯定的是,该公司将他们视为二等信息公民。

RDR建议苹果对言论自由的限制保持透明,并公布有关公司因政府要求而删除内容所采取行动的数据。我们邀苹果审核我们在 applecensorship.com 上公开发布的数据,并根据中国当局的指示突出显示已删除应用的情况。

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。
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