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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。

星期一, 10月 10, 2011

We've moved to greatfire.org

Today we've moved to a new domain: https://greatfire.org. Here are some notes on what this means:

We're not blocked in China

Though it may only be a question of time until this changes, for now our website is accessible in China without a VPN or proxy. Back in March, before we were blocked, we started getting traffic from Weibo (the biggest Chinese equivalent to Twitter) and we hope to be able to inform Chinese users on the extent of online censorship here.

We're on a secure server

Notice that our address starts with HTTPS. This means that all traffic between your browser and our server is encrypted. And the result of this encryption is that it is impossible for the Great Firewall to intercept the traffic, if you're viewing our website from China. HTTPS is a term to remember, it's the biggest reason why the authorities have semi-blocked access to GMail here.

.org as in non-profit

We are a non-profit organization which is now reflected in our name. Our mission is to bring transparency to online censorship in China. We do need your help to make our operations sustainable.

Feedback is very welcome, as always.

星期二, 8月 23, 2011

How our tests are done

We have been detecting which websites are blocked in China since February this year. Using our tool and contributions from our visitors, we've created the most complete database anywhere of what's blocked by the so-called Great Firewall of China, including 2200+ blocked websites and 200+ blocked searches. But how accurate is our data?

When a website is tested, it's always done by comparing the results of trying to access it from A) a computer outside China and B) a computer inside China. This way, a website that is simply not working is not labelled as blocked. A website that works when accessed outside of China but fails when tested from inside China, on the other hand, will be labelled as blocked.

This makes our data more accurate, but not perfect. Another difficulty is that the Great Firewall often changes temporarily. A given website that was previously accessible may be blocked for, say, 20 minutes. The opposite is also true. Blocked websites are sometimes temporarily accessible. Examples include Facebook (March 28, April 25) and YouTube (July 31, Aug 15 etc).

To tackle this particular challenge, our scripts always re-run testing of a website once more, after it's status has changed. In most cases, temporary changes are quickly detected and the websites are labelled correctly again. In some cases, however, if the change lasts somewhat longer, it may take up to a week for our system to re-label the website correctly. So, for example, Paypal was tested to be blocked twice on Aug 22. It's now accessible again. But it will take several days before our system automatically tests it again. Meanwhile, it's labelled as blocked.

星期四, 5月 19, 2011

Who is protecting the VPNs?

In recent days news has spread that China is cracking down on VPN use (Guardian, Global Voices). Chinese internet users, particularly those in universities, are finding it increasingly difficult to make use of VPNs to circumvent online censorship and access blocked websites. This seems to be a continuation of the increased censorship witnessed this year, including temporary blocks of GMail and LinkedIn.

While important, this development leaves an obvious question unanswered: Why do the authorities not block access to the main websites of the major VPN providers? Each serious provider offers access to a number of servers around the world and blocking actual usage of these is somewhat complicated. The main websites, however, could be blocked in an instant. After all, the Great Firewall has no problem constantly blocking other websites such as Youtube and Facebook.

There are three apparent possibilites. The first is incompetence. The authorities might simply not be aware of the VPN providers that are not blocked. This seems unlikely for two reasons. First, all it takes is a Google search of, say, "VPN China". Blocking the top 10 results would go a long way to making VPN access in China more difficult. Second, some providers, such as StrongVPN, are in fact temporarily blocked from time to time.

星期四, 4月 28, 2011

Uncensored Google search in China, without a VPN or proxy

At the time of writing, we're monitoring 59 Google searches that are all blocked in China. This means that when in China, unless you're on a VPN or proxy and you try to search for any of these words in Google, you'll be presented with a blank page. However, there's currently a glitch in the firewall which can be used to get complete uncensored Google search in China on a standard internet connection.

It's done using Google SSL. Google SSL is hosted on an encrypted server meaning that anything that is sent or received is out of reach of the Great Firewall. This is a good reason for the Chinese authorities to block the service altogether. They have of course, but there's a loophole. Here's how to do it:

1. Go to www.google.com/ncr

If you're in China, when you Google you're redirected to www.google.com.hk by default. Typing in www.google.com/ncr makes sure that you get to the international website and not the Hong Kong version.

2. Type in google encrypted and click "I'm Feeling Lucky"

This should take you to https://encrypted.google.com. Alternatively, you can try typing in that URL manually: https://encrypted.google.com.

星期四, 4月 07, 2011

Visualized Censorship in China

A picture is worth a thousand words. The origin of this popular phrase may in fact be the Chinese proverb 一畫勝千言. So what would be a better way to communicate our analysis of the current online censorship in China than just that, in pictures? The wonderful online tool Wordle helped us do just that. If you click on any of the images you will see a larger version.

Websites blocked in China

First out is a visualization of major websites blocked in China. This was made using this list and by using the popularity of the website to give it more or less weight.

 

Searches blocked in China

Next up is a visualization of blocked searches. These are words and phrases deemed sensitive, meaning that if you search for any of them in Google while in China your connection will be reset and you'll only see a blank page. If you think the list is incomplete, please help us by adding a new search for testing.

 

All together

Our final visualization is a combination of major websites as well as searches blocked in China. If you have any ideas for other types of visualizations please feel free to comment.

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