China and Internet Filters

Zittrain, Jonathan
June 2004
Nieman Reports;Summer2004, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p105
The Internet in China is filtered. This fact is found nowhere in Chinese newspapers because the newspapers they read are filtered, too. Chinese citizens know about filtering only through gossip, or when they discover that certain sensitive Web sites are consistently reported to be unavailable on the otherwise-functioning network. As part of a project documenting Internet filtering worldwide, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School explored and analyzed the situation in China. They found a range of sites covering dozens of topical categories to be filtered, including dissident and democracy sites, sites covering public health and HIV, sites about religion, Tibet, Taiwan and the home pages of many institutions of higher learning around the world. Within this expansive range, what stands out as perhaps the primary target of filtering in China, apart from pornography, are sites involving news. China regularly blocks the online homes of BBC, CNN, Times, PBS, The Miami Herald, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. A handful of activist hackers and others had already entered the cat-and-mouse game of helping users bypass government Internet filters through proxy services.


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