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星期一, 3月 26, 2012

中国领导层换届!“胡”被屏蔽!

中国的实际最高领导机构是由25人组成的中共中央政治局。

China's top leadership body is the Politburo which has 25 members. Of these, nine make up the Standing Committee which is the Chinese government's most important decision-making group. Seven of the nine are expected to be replaced this year. One of the candidates to fill these vacancies, Bo Xilai, was recently ousted in a scandal. Not surprisingly, much of the reporting on this incident is censored in China. More surprising, perhaps, is that all other members of the Politburo are censored on the Chinese Internet.

The following is a summary of all Politburo members and whether they are censored on Baidu, Google and Wikipedia, searching for their names in Chinese or Pinyin, respectively. Censorship on Baidu is marked in yellow and refers to confirmed self-censorship. Censorship on Google and Wikipedia is marked in red and refers to complete blocking of those pages. You can click on either to get more info on the results, or to test again in real time.

The discrepancy in results between Chinese character searches and searches in Pinyin may shed a little light on who is deemed to be a true danger when it comes to censorship.

 

星期二, 3月 20, 2012

Facebook, Google Plus, Uncensored Search etc without a VPN

GreatFire.org's mission is to bring transparency to online censorship in China and to that end we are continuously making our own improvements to how we monitor blocked searches and key words. This past week we launched a new version of our web site where we now provide real-time searches so concerned netizens can keep up to date with information which is being censored via the Great Firewall of China.

We are also fortunate in that we have a core of super users who are constantly and consistently testing our technology to keep abreast of censorship in China. After we launched the new version of the site, we received feedback from a user via Twitter:

Congrats on ur update. But it seems connection reset for https is not detected by ur server. e.g https://en.greatfire.org/https/www.youtube.com

After receiving this message we logged on to Facebook, checked out Google Plus and did some searches on Google, specifically for freedom and 六四. What's so special about that? These websites and searches are blocked in China but we were able to access them without using a VPN or proxy, the tools people commonly use to get around this censorship.

星期六, 3月 17, 2012

New Version of GreatFire.org

We are very pleased to unveil a new version of GreatFire.org today. Here are some things we've been working on in an effort to improve the web site and to bring transparency to online censorship in China. 

Real Time Testing 

You can now test whether any URL is blocked or restricted in China in real time. Just enter any website in the main search field on the top of this page and click Test Now. Or, when browsing a report on a particular URL, you can request to have it retested immediately by clicking Test Now on its page. This is the first time that real-time monitoring of key words in China has ever been publicly available. Other web sites share information about key words which may have been blocked in the past but which are now unblocked (or vice versa). Our real-time service will allow visitors to the site to monitor blocked key words in relation to breaking news stories in China. Visitors will also gain insight into anomalies that sometimes occur with the Great Firewall including the ability to see if blocked sites like Facebook and Twitter happen to be open in China for short periods of time. 

Percentages 

We now report blocks and restrictions as percentages over the last 30 days. For example, if a URL has been tested 10 times in the last 30 days, and as a result of those tests the connection was reset 5 times and the download speed was slower than 5 kbps 2 times, our report would state that the web site is 50% blocked (5 /10) and 20% otherwise restricted (2 / 10). This means that our reports will be more reliable by providing more information about how exactly these sites are being blocked or throttled. There are frequent glitches in the Great Firewall and the previous version of our website reported only on the latest status of a web site, which could give distorted impressions. 

星期六, 2月 04, 2012

Is the Great Firewall blocking outgoing traffic only?

Connection reset. That is the famous response shown to web users in China when they are trying to access one of the over 2600 websites and searches that have been blocked by the authorities. But what is actually blocked and what is causing the connection disruption? Our research suggests that the Great Firewall (GFW) does not filter any incoming data, but only the outgoing traffic.

It is often said that the GFW imposes three types of censorship. The first one is DNS poisoning. For example, this happens when users in China attempt to access facebook.com. The name servers return an incorrect IP address which doesn't work. The browser tries to load the website for a certain period of time until the whole exercise 'times out'.

The second type of censorship is keyword-based. For example, if one tries to search on Google for facebook, freedom  or some of the other 250+ blocked searches, the connection is immediately reset. In addition, users are restricted from accessing any content on the same website for a minute or so.

The third type is supposed to be content based. Regardless of what was searched for or the address that was entered, if the content contains certain keywords, it is supposed to be blocked. This is where our findings become relevant. They suggest that the GFW doesn't interfere at all with the content that is sent back to the web user in China.

星期二, 1月 03, 2012

Gmail is getting faster but still not as fast as dial-up

Many in China have complained that Gmail is so slow that it is almost impossible to use (see our original story from March 2011 - Gmail now 45 times slower than QQ). We have continued to gather data on the Gmail situaiton in light of Google's continued operation in China. With more data we can now show how the situation has developed since March. The results are clear in this chart:

All foreign webmail providers are considerably slower than domestic competitors (QQ is included for comparison). Out of Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo, a distressed Yahoo, whose local partner in China is Alibaba, is consistently the fastest free foreign email provider. Hotmail has at times challenged Gmail to a race to the bottom. Using the same comparison as in March, Gmail is now only 9 times slower than QQ and has seen a considerable improvement in speed since September.

One way to put the speed of Gmail into perspective is to compare today's access speed with old dial-up modems, for those that remember. In the 1990s, they provided speeds up to 56 kbps, or roughly 7000 bytes per second. That is considerably faster than the average speed of either Gmail or Hotmail, when accessed from within China in 2011.

Apart from speed, the main problem with Gmail in China is instability. Rather than blocking the service outright, it seems that the authorities have chosen to impose occasional, random outages. Looking back over the year (from March onwards), we can see the following:

Surfing the Internet in China slower on Sundays

Browsing websites is often a slow and frustrating experience in China. Apart from blocking over 2600 websites and searches, the Great Firewall also imposes a serious bottleneck on speed. There have been rumors that the Internet is especially slow on Sundays. Analyzing more than 80,000 tests executed by our system from March to November this year, our data seems to confirm this suspicion.

The tests consist of downloading the front page of each of the world's 500 most popular websites, as defined by Alexa. Apart from aberrations in March and June, download speeds on Sundays have consistently been between 8 and 25% slower than the average of the other days of the week. Here's the full test data summary (all speeds in bytes/second):

星期五, 12月 16, 2011

乌坎在微博上被屏蔽

BBC昨天的报道称"乌坎",一座正在进行大型反征地游行的南方小镇的名字,已经被加入了微博的搜索屏蔽词汇

(China protest in Guangdong's Wukan 'vanishes from web'). 

我们的系统尚未自动监控新浪微博的搜索屏蔽词汇(我们现在有微博监测了),不过以下是手工测试的结果:
KeywordStatus
乌坎Blocked
WukanBlocked
WKNot blocked
禄丰Not blocked
LufengNot blocked

当尝试搜索一个被屏蔽的关键词时,微博会给出这样的提示:

根据相关法律法规和政策,“wukan”搜索结果未予显示

但是,在微博之外,乌坎这样的关键词们却并没有在Google或者Wikipedia(包括中文版和英文版)上被封锁。我们的系统在不断跟踪他们的状态,就显示在本页右上角。

只在微博上屏蔽这些词汇也许验证了在有关部门眼中微博相比其他媒介具有特殊的重要性。

星期五, 10月 14, 2011

所有WordPress博客在中国被封锁

WordPress.com, 有名的博客提供商在本周被中国屏蔽。

浏览以下建立在wordpress上的博客 (使用我们提供的搜索栏搜索“wordpress”) 显示

以前被封锁的博客: 7个 共21个 (33%).

现在被封锁的博客: 21个 共21个 (100%).

wordpress.com 也被封锁。 有趣的是 wordpress.org 也没有被封锁。因此,中国的用户仍然可以下载 WordPress 软件, 却必须将此将博客建立在其他的地方。

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