The Great FireWall of China – Chinese Internet Censorship Insights

Chinese Government has added additional layers of filtering to all traffic that reaches the end-users. The censorship is one of it kinds which assures cleaner WWW.

Because of this civilized censorship, the browsing experience is different in china than the rest of the world. Let’s discuss How Chinese internet is different from the world!

1. Due to congestion on China’s backbone networks and the time it takes for communications to travel across undersea cables to the United States and Europe, travelers find a noticeable difference in the responsiveness of the Internet in China compared to the rest of the world.
2. The Chinese government uses four mechanisms — DNS blocking, reset commands, URL keyword blocking and content scanning — to prevent Internet users in the country from reaching blacklisted Web sites or content.
3. Chinese authorities monitor all the Internet traffic coming in and out of the country using mirroring routers designed for back-up and disaster recovery operations. These routers are hooked up to computers that scan for forbidden information.
4. If the Chinese government finds that a user has downloaded forbidden content, it breaks the connection and prohibits the user from establishing communications with the site. These blackouts can last anywhere from two minutes to an hour.
5. The Chinese government is believed to employ tens of thousands of censors who monitor bloggers and delete offensive or subversive material. These censors require ISPs and other Internet companies to stop posting articles, forums and blogs about controversial subjects.
6. The Chinese government justifies its Internet monitoring efforts by telling the public that it is keeping online information “wholesome” and free of threats such as sexual predators. Online pornography is not as pervasive in China, and users are less likely to stumble upon it
7. Malicious activity — including phishing scams, bots and zombies — is less common in China than in the United States. China represented 7% of the Internet’s malicious activity, while the United States represented 31% during the second half of 2007. One rationale for the Chinese Internet monitoring system is to keep hackers at bay.
8. China produces 4% of the world’s spam, while the United States is the origin for 42% of all unsolicited e-mail. China decreased its spam volume by 131% in the second half of 2007, largely by reducing the number of bot-infested computers.
9. The China Next Generation Internet is an IPv6 backbone that the Chinese government is using as a testbed to develop IPv6 services, including distance learning and telemedicine. IPv6 is an upgrade to the Internet’s main communications protocol that features enough IP addresses for the Chinese population.
10. The Chinese top-level domain (.cn) had the fastest growth rate on the Internet in 2007. Sales of .cn domain names grew 399% in 2007. In contrast, the most common domains in the U.S. (.com and .net) grew 24% year over year.

The underlying technology that the Chinese use for Internet censorship, is studied by John Ritter, he explained it in a recent article titled “The Connection Has Been Reset.” Here are More Takeaways.

The Censorship & Delay

If you work from a Chinese Internet cafe – which is still where the vast majority of Chinese Internet activity happens, since so few people have connected computers in their own homes – you experience all of these blocking mechanisms as a matter of course. In some places, like schools, the blocking can be much cruder and indiscriminate. In several public schools the “connected” Internet computers were prevented from using any search engine whatsoever. It can be surprisingly hard to get around the Net if you can’t run any searches! In cafes and in most home connections, all the mechanisms would prevail.

In some hotels and other buildings that cater to Western visitors, the controls may be somewhat relaxed. The authorities don’t really care that much about what non-Chinese citizens are able to find. Still, travelers are not able to reach a wide variety of sites like Wikipedia or Technorati.

The Constant change and Un-AwarenessMany kinds of government control in China are surprisingly effective precisely because they are so variable and unpredictable in the way they’re enforced. It’s “selective enforcement” that describes this process; some Chinese people refer to it by a Chinese saying that boils down to, “One eye open, one eye shut.” The idea is that if you’re never quite sure when, why and how hard the boom might be lowered on you, you start controlling yourself, rather than being limited strictly by what the government is able to control directly.

When it comes to the Internet, this haziness about just what is and is not permissible has two implications. At a purely technical level, it makes it harder to reverse-engineer the firewall’s filters. One day, you can reach all pages at the BBC. The next day they’re blocked. If you’re trying to game out the system, you’re stymied. And at a social level, it makes it hard for people to be sure that they’re ever operating in a truly safe zone, since the rules of enforcement might shift tomorrow.

Is the Chinese Internet control system so objectionable?

In all matters of expression and inquiry in the United States, the default assumption is that people should be able to read or write whatever they want. The exceptions requiring control are just that: exceptions. For instance: schoolchildren are exceptional cases, for obvious reasons; and public libraries could also be exceptions, for reasons of public decorum. In China, there is no such default assumption about individuals’ presumed right to see, read or say whatever they want. That’s the difference.

It’s Effective

The system is quite impressive on its own terms. At least for now, it seems to have figured out the way to get maximum possible “benefits,” in terms of limiting disruptive discussion or information, without having maximum oppressiveness or crudeness. Westerners do wonder why the Chinese public doesn’t rise up to seek maximum freedom of information on its own.  Right now, even with the controls, more Chinese people have more access to more and freer information than has ever been true in the country’s very long history. So for now it’s understandable that more of them are thinking about what they can find than what they can’t.

Cisco did a favor to the Chinese government several years ago by selling them the mirroring routers on which the Great Firewall is based, at a time when Chinese authorities could not easily have produced the systems on their own. The likely use of the routers was well understood – and it should be obvious why selling them to a government which intends to monitor its citizens is different from selling them to some company that wants to monitor its employees.
The Chinese authorities could buy the necessary routers from a variety of sources – notably from the homegrown firm Huawei. So, really few people here spend much time worrying about Cisco’s role anymore.
It’s not easy to explain what  a Typical Chinese surfer goes through everyday. Recently a developer tried to access censored material over Proxy, and Chinese government is after him.
Long live the Great Fire wall of china!
he Chinese government uses four mechanisms — DNS blocking, reset commands, URL keyword blocking and content scanning — to prevent Internet users in the country from reaching blacklisted Web sites or content.
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