Tag: censorship

Chinese government downs Reuters

android-china-communistThe Chinese government seems to believe that if its citizens read Reuters websites their minds will be totally corrupted.

Reuters said both its English and Chinese websites were inaccessible in China today, and it appears to be the government that’s made them unavailable.

Communist China blocks a large number of foreign websites – the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and Bloomberg are all banned.

Reuters asked the government internet watchdog what was going on but the watchdog doesn’t appear to be listening, yet.

The news service said in a statement that it is committed to fair and accurate journalism across world. “We recognise the great importance of news about China to all our customers, and we hope that our sites will be restored in China too,” Reuters said in a statement.

The company’s financial and data services to Chinese clients haven’t been tampered with.


Cameron told to sling his hook on Tor

David CameronMonths after Prime Minister David “One is an Ordinary Bloke” Cameron said he wants to ban encryption and online anonymity, a Parliamentary report has told him to shutup.

A briefing issued by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology saying that the such an act is “neither acceptable nor technically feasible” which is about as close as you can get to telling Cameron to shut up short of a coup and a guillotine.

The briefing specifically referenced the Tor anonymity network and its ability to slide right around such censorship schemes.

While briefings from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology are not legally binding it does mean that if Cameron pushes through any censorship bill it will be without the science behind him.

The briefing does explicitly state that there is “widespread agreement” banning Tor is not acceptable policy nor is it feasible technologically.

Tor has about 100,000 users at any given moment within the United Kingdom.

“There is widespread agreement that banning online anonymity systems altogether is not seen as an acceptable policy option in the UK,” the briefing explained. “Even if it were, there would be technical challenges.”

In 2012, UK police moaned that the Tor anonymity service was used by “many” pedophiles in order to trade child abuse images. However now it appears that they have changed their minds.

The briefing, quoting Britain’s Parliament by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP) of the UK National Crime Agency said that Tor “plays only a minor role in the online viewing and distribution of indecent images of children,” according to the briefing,

Coppers have worked out that Tor is less popular among offenders because it decreases the speed at which images can be downloaded.

China steps up internet censorship

chinaflagIn its continuing move to restrict access to internet content the government doesn’t like, China shut down dozens of websites and social media accounts today.
That’s according to Reuters, which said the prohibited content applies to political news, pornography, and other perceived violations.
The “office of the central leading group for cyberspace affairs” said violations not include pornography or writing political material, but material related to gambling.
The cyberspace censors have closed close to 1.8 million accounts on social networking and messaging sites, and the “office” plans to publish a list of those who have violated its strictures.
China already operates a policy to preclude a number of websites and services including YouTube, Google, and any site which dares to mention Falun Gong.
Other countries also restrict access to the internet for political reasons, but it’s widely recognised that China’s so-called “Great Firewall” is the most effective.


Big Content forces Chilling Effects to self-censor

 seal_3Big Content has pressured the Chilling Effects DMCA archive to censor itself, just as the world is starting to see those who stand up to censorship as heros.

The organisation decided to wipe its presence from all popular search engines to prevent it being sued by copyright holders.

Chilling Effects was an archive of all sites which had been shut down with a DMCA court order.  For years it was quietly showing how free speech was being threatened by take-down orders.

Google now processes more than a million takedown requests from copyright holders, and that’s for its search engine alone.

Google partners with Chilling Effects to post redacted copies of all notices online seeing it as one of the few tools that helps to keep copyright holders accountable. It shows inaccurate takedown notices and other dirty deeds by the content industry.

Founded by Harvard’s Berkman Center, it offers an invaluable database for researchers and the public in general.

Chilling Effects removed its entire domain from all search engines, including its homepage and other informational and educational resources and it looked like Big Content is behind it.

Its pages contain hundreds of millions of non-linked URLs to infringing material. Copyright holders are not happy with these pages. Copyright Alliance CEO Sandra Aistars described the activities of the Chilling Effects projects as “repugnant”.

Berkman Center project coordinator Adam Holland told TorrentFreak,  Chilling Effects has now decided to hide its content from search engines, making it harder to find.

The self censorship may sound strange coming from an organisation that was founded to offer more transparency, but the Chilling Effects team believes that it strikes the right balance, for now.

“It may or may not prove to be permanent, but for now it’s the step that makes the most sense as we continue to think things through,” he added.

The notices themselves remain online, but with just the site’s own search it’s harder to find cases of abuse. The copyright holders on the other hand will be happy.

China says Gmail users must lump it

330ogleAccess to Gmail for Chinese users remains restricted but now a state owned newspaper has offered words of advice on the matter.

Global Times, which is controlled by the Chinese authorities, said if the government has indeed blocked access to Gmail, then there must be good reasons – such as “newly emerged security reasons”.

The editorial said it that is the reason for the service not working, users “need to accept the reality of Gmail being suspended in China”.

But the editorial is interlarded with ifs and buts.  It suggests that there may be a technical glitch on Google’s side.  And it said the Western press has accused the government of strengthening cyber censorship.

“The issue at heart is to what extent Google is willing to obey Chinese law, on which China’s attitude is steadfast,” it continued.

Chinese law was the reason that Google decided to quit the mainland in 2010.

Global Times accuses Google of running into conflict with other authorities.

“China welcomes the company to do business on the prerequisite that it obeys Chinese law; however, Google values more its reluctance to be restricted by Chinese law, resulting in conflict.”

China blocks Gmail

Photo of China from satellite - Wikimedia CommonsReports said that the Chinese government blocked access to Gmail accounts on Friday in a bid to further throttle Google.

A freedom of speech group, GreatFire.org, claimed the government was making an attempt to wipe out any Google presence in mainland China, according to a Reuters report.

While practically all of Google’s services have been throttled in mainland China, its email service Gmail was available to people until a block was imposed on Friday.

That block is still in place today. The Chinese government operates a regime which some have dubbed the Great Firewall of China which prevents citizens from seeing internet content that it doesn’t like.

China does not officially admit that it censors some internet services and maintains that it’s all in favour of foreign investment.

Apart from Google.

Iran expands smart censorship

Achaemenid_Elite_ImmortalsThe former religiously tolerant Achaemenid empire, which became the religiously less tolerant Sassanid Empire before becoming the cross-eyed religiously intolerant Iran wants to expand its policy of “smart filtering” of the Internet.

For those who came in late, the Iranians have a policy of censoring undesirable content on websites without banning them completely.

The policy appears to follow President Hassan Rouhani’s push to loosen some social restrictions, but it was not clear if it would mean more or less internet freedom. Iranians on Twitter expressed concern that, as part of the new policy, the government would try to block VPN access to such sites.

Communications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi said  that this smart filtering plan is implemented only on one social network in its pilot study phase and this process will continue gradually until the plan is implemented on all networks.

He appeared to be referring to Instagram, the photo-sharing site owned by Facebook, which is already being filtered, but not blocked.

“Implementing the smart filtering plan, we are trying to block the criminal and unethical contents of the Internet sites, while the public will be able to use the general contents of those sites,” Vaezi told a news conference.

The policy would be fully in place by June 2015, he said.

What they are after is snaps of porn to images of women not wearing the mandatory Islamic dress as well is politically damaging comments.

The Iranian government has been worried by the rise of social media.  It was used in the anti-government protests of 2009 to organise and spread news about a movement that was eventually crushed by security forces.

Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, floated the idea of replacing the unternet with a national intranet that would not be connected to the worldwide web, however that seemed a little too silly to fly.


Hong Kong protestors use Mesh

hong kong protestHong Kong’s activists are relying on a free app that can send messages without any mobile phone connection.

The move comes about because of fears that the Chinese government would block local phone networks to stop protestors organising.

However activists have turned to the FireChat app to send supportive messages and share the latest news. The app was downloaded more than 100,000 times in Hong Kong, its developers said.

FireChat uses “mesh networking,” that allows data to zip directly from one phone to another via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Ordinarily, if two people want to communicate this way, they need to be close together. However, as more people join in, the network grows and messages can travel further.

Mesh networks were designed for people who are caught in natural disasters or, like those in Hong Kong, protesting under tricky conditions. FireChat came in handy for protesters in Taiwan and Iraq this year.

However Hans-Christoph Steiner at The Guardian Project, which helps activists circumvent censorship, warns that Firechat has no built-in encryption, so messages can be read by anyone within range.

FireChat has said it aims to add encryption in the future. Bluetooth communications come with an identifier called a MAC address, which could also be used to track down protest ringleaders.

Chinese authorities could also use radio jamming to shut down mesh networks in a local area, or prevent more people from joining by cutting off access to app stores.

British people tell Cameron to stick his net filters

David CameronWhile the British Prime Minister David “one is an ordinary bloke” Cameron is adamant that people want their internet censored by him to “protect their children” the population of Blighty is telling him where to shove it.

Broadband customers are overwhelmingly choosing not to use parental-control systems foisted on ISPs by the government. Take-up in the single digits for three of the four major broadband providers even though many have to opt into an uncensored internet.

An Ofcom report has revealed that the vast majority of new customers are not opting for the filters and the whole thing was an expensive waste of time.

Only five percent of new BT customers signed up, eight percent opted in for Sky and four per cent for Virgin Media. TalkTalk rolled out a parental-control system two years before the government required it and has had much better take-up of its offering, with 36 per cent of customers signing up for it.

Ofcom said about 40 percent of British homes would likely have children in them, but noted that customer demographics varied by ISP. BT said about 20-25 percent of its customer base has children “of a relevant age.”

Ofcom noted that previous research showed about 42 percent of British homes with children already had parental controls of some sort before the rollout. BT noted that about nine percent of its customers – which it said works out to 40 percent of its customers with young children use a device-based filter rather than the network-level filter.

In other words, those who wanted to “protect the children” had already done it and did not need any help from David Cameron. Probably these same people hire baby sitters and do not leave their children in pubs when they want a quiet night in.

Ofcom admitted that filters are easily ignored, but suggests it requires a “dedicated and technically competent user, supported by a range of advice available online”. Actually you can get around some of the filters can be dodged by using basic proxy services, including Google Images or Google translate.

All up, it is looking like most people do not want to be protected by David Cameron and are ignoring his attempts to censor what they watch.