How China Censors the Internet and How You can Go Around It

Great wall of china-mutianyu 4A 2012 report by Freedom House, which is a U.S. organization that tracks global trends in political freedom, has ranked China as the 3rd most restrictive country in the world in terms of internet access, citing that only a small portion of the country’s 560 million internet users are able to browse websites that have been blocked by the Chinese government (which can be anything from adult sites to popular western services like Facebook and Google.)

The main motivation behind the extremely restrictive internet in China is because the government wants strict controls over its people’s browsing, effectively limiting the control of information and censoring content that they deem inappropriate. But how does China do it?

The Great Firewall of China

The Chinese government has two methods of exercising control over what its citizens can access on the web. First is a national firewall that has been dubbed as “The Great Firewall” by foreigners, as a pun on the country’s famous wonder. The national firewall was started in the late 90s and is active to this day, blocking specific websites (or rather only allowing specific websites and blocking the rest.)

The Golden Shield

The other way that the Internet is censored in China is through the Golden Shield, which is a system for domestic surveillance that goes as far back as 1998, having been set up by the Ministry of Public Security. Under the Golden Shield are local and provincial monitoring systems exclusive to specific government departments.

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Blocked and Censored Websites

Originally, the Chinese Government only blocked a number of foreign websites. The sites that have been blocked include major news organizations, social media networks, and even websites of human rights organizations. However, their filters have since been upgraded into something more sophisticated so that they can now block specific pages within a website, instead of a blanket block on an entire domain or IP. For example, it used to be that Google is blocked completely, but with the new filters Chinese surfers can access the search engine, but searching for banned keywords will result in Google being blocked for 90 seconds. This method is not exclusive to websites, as Instant Messages are also monitored and specific keywords are blocked as well.

How to Go Around China’s Censorship on the Internet

Currently, the only method that works if you want to get past China’s Golden Shield and Great Firewall is through the use of a Virtual Private Network. This is a third party service that encrypts all incoming and outgoing data so that it can’t be interpreted by the firewalls and filters. The only con to this is that your activity is not entirely invisible to whoever is watching, just that they can’t understand what’s going on. If they caught on, they may block the VPN so you’d have to switch to another provider. It’s a stop gap measure but for someone who wants freedom online in China, it’s the only option.

One Response to “How China Censors the Internet and How You can Go Around It”

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