I’ve just recorded an interview with Amnesty International’s Sophie Peer about human rights in China, with an emphasis on Internet censorship. The video is online, though the vision is just me talking on the phone.
[This week journalists arriving in Beijing for the Olympic Games discovered that the IOC had cut a deal with the Chinese government so that their Internet connection was censored. Crikey commissioned this article, which was first published yesterday. I’ve added further linkage at the end.]
China’s “Great Firewall” (GFW), officially the Golden Shield Project (é‡‘ç›¾å·¥ç¨‹) of the Ministry of Public Security, is both clever and stupid, subtle and blunt.
As with any Internet filtering system, there’s only two methods to block bad stuff: keep a list of “bad sites” and prevent access, or look at the content live and figure out whether it’s good or bad on the fly. GFW uses both.
Al Gore was mocked for calling the Internet the “Information Superhighway”, but the analogy works. Like the road network, a maze of suburban streets leads to relatively few freeways, all administered by a myriad of local authorities.
When your computer requests a website, imagine a truck driving out your front gate. The driver knows the site’s name but not how to get there. Normally, you’ll get directions.
A lengthy article in The Atlantic explains just why China’s “Great Firewall” is so effective. As Boing Boing summarises, “The kicker is the social and political impact… simply by making it inconvenient to read certain sites, the Chinese government can keep politically charged issues from surfacing in the national discourse.”