The Great Fire-Wall of China

The use of the phrase “Great Firewall” as a likeness to the Great Wall of China, refers more so to the Great Firewall’s deficiencies than its efficacy as a sturdy barricade to the spreading of certain types of information and media sources in China. Both worldwide and Chinese media use it as a blanket term with ironic connotations. It refers to projects and legislation started by the Chinese government, which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP, that endeavors to control the Internet and is in fact the main apparatus used to achieve Internet censorship throughout the whole of Mainland China. The CCP policy includes criminalizing specific online speech and behaviors, disabling viewing websites, and filtering key words out of searches searched from devices situated in Mainland China. In 1997 the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s exclusive legislative body, passed a law that criminalizes “cyber crimes”.

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There have been hundreds of web sites that the government has blocked number and they range from the obvious (that of Falun Gong, a quasi-religious group that China banned in 1999) to the unlikely innocent English-language web sites such as The New York Times and Washington Post which were blocked until 2002. Get this, phrases and words such as “democracy” and “Tiananmen Square massacre” are actually filtered out from searches through agreements with search providers like Google. So it’s fair to say that it is illegal to know what a democracy even is!

Websites such as ‘The Great Firewall of China’ allow people living outside of China to trial “any website and see real-time if it’s censored in China”. It is a way to view websites from the standpoint of a Chinese user. The Great Firewall is a supplementary indication of China’s aspiration to construct an Internet environment that it can have total control over. These web filters work as a dual purpose in scanning out content that is considered critical of the Chinese government and simultaneously provides safeguard for China’s own developing web firms hostile to larger and stronger overseas rivals.

But with the implication of the Great Firewall analogy, like the Great Wall of China, will it in due course be unsuccessful as a shielding fortress? Let me know what you think in the comment section below!

References

Barme, Geremie R., and Sang Ye. “The Great Firewall of China: At ISPs, Internet cafes, even state censorship committees, we meet the wired of China.” WIRED-SAN FRANCISCO- 5 (1997): 138-149.

Clayton, Richard, Steven J. Murdoch, and Robert NM Watson. “Ignoring the great firewall of china.” Privacy Enhancing Technologies. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2006.

“Great Firewall of China.” Great Firewall of China. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.greatfirewallofchina.org

Products, Other. “The Great Firewall of China Is Nearly Complete.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.

Xu, Xueyang, Z. Morley Mao, and J. Alex Halderman. “Internet censorship in China: Where does the filtering occur?.” Passive and Active Measurement. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2011.

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One comment

  1. Joel Kimber · April 17, 2015

    Good write-up Ceren (how do you pronounce that?), it’s wild to think that you can’t even access facebook in that country, how much stuff young Chinese students must get done when they don’t have facebook on which to waste time. Although they probably have their own version of it.

    It’s pretty insidious the level that the CCP goes to control the information coming in and going out of China. Have you heard about the 50 cent army? People get paid to steer discussion in various message boards to a more favourable view of the CCP and when they succeed they get paid the equivalent of 50 US cents: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/propaganda-03122014184948.html

    And I remember hearing/reading that the firewall was put in place because the CCP doesn’t want international companies like Facebook and Google storing information on Chinese citizens offshore. Which is a pretty valid reason especially when you realise that with the data these companies mine they can find out you’re pregnant before your family does: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-target-figured-out-a-teen-girl-was-pregnant-before-her-father-did/

    Well, that is, until you realise the amount of censoring that the CCP does and then the alarm bells start to ring. I didn’t know that words like Democracy were banned search terms. I wonder what happens when it’s searched for, wouldn’t that be a bit limiting for academic research? That website you linked where you can pretend you’re behind the firewall looks cool too, I’ll have to check it out.

    And damn girl, stop being so well referenced, you’re making the rest of us look bad.

    Kimber

    Like

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