To many this seemed ideal; a show of force to keep out the bad elements, but of course this was untrue.
In reality, the armed guards allegedly worked for the drug dealers running The Village and their job was to regulate all illicit activity within the compound. They were more like a “mafia militia” as opposed to a conventional security force.
Rather than protect the people within the borders or The Village, the role of the security guards was to oversee the rampant drug sales for the dealers who lorded over the complex.
The Village was a self-contained entity which made and enforced its own rules while hiding in plain sight. To me nothing can better illustrate China’s Great Firewall (GFW) or Internet censorship technology.
Beijing claims that Internet protection and the Great Firewall of China are needed in order to:
“…Promote the sound development of China’s Internet, protect state security, social and public interests, and lawful rights and interests of individuals, legal persons and other organizations.” (1)
Unfortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth. The reality is that like the guards at The Village, the GFW prevents “prying eyes” from peeking into the illegal if not unethical nature of China’s online activities.
Truth be told, China’s Great Firewall acts as a border behind which Chinese companies can hide and offer illegal services to Chinese citizens.
As you have to possess access to the Chinese Internet to know this, the GFW presents an ideal platform for thieves to hide behind and conduct business. Just like the drug dealers were protected by The Village’s guards, so too are Chinese crooks protected by the Great Firewall.
How It Works
In order to understand the Great Firewall, just remember the security guard example from above. In essence, the Great Firewall acts in much the same manner as the corrupt security guards in The Village. Not only does it prohibit the Chinese from accessing information from afar but prevents other countries from seeing in.
When you type a search into your computer, this information is sent off on a series of “hops” to servers located around the world. In countries with Internet freedom, all but illegal searches are allowed. (2)
What this means is that the net acts as a virtual doorway to the information you request. As long as it is not illegal, the information you seek is returned within milliseconds.
In China, the same rule basically applies, although with a twist. The communist party claims:
“The Chinese government encourages and supports the development of Internet news communication undertakings…and at the same time guarantees the citizens’ freedom of speech on the Internet as well as the public’s right to know, to participate, to be heard and to oversee in accordance with the law.”
The Chinese net is hog-tied by some of the most advanced Internet filtering technology in the world. This technology has reduced the Chinese Internet to little more than a tool of the state which is constantly battling against most if not all constitutional rights of Chinese citizens.
Take, for instance a recent Chinese ruling which seems at odds with their claims above. It has recently been mandated that no Chinese press agency can quote a foreign news source without permission of the communist party. (3)
Let’s see how this diktat can be enforced and its relevance to the Internet, shall we?
First off, upon disobeying this mandate, a Chinese reporter will probably find himself face-to-face with some very mean looking people who can choose to warn the reporter, disappear him or merely “cave in his skull” (4) …but back to the technical aspects.
Once the reporter has successfully been “re-educated”, the offensive material must be dealt with. In our example we will assume the reporter successfully uploaded his post to the Internet. At this point you have to realize that the communist party controls the entire Internet and telecommunications infrastructure in China. This means they have access to most if not all data flowing across their Internet pipes. (5)
The communists will then do a couple of things. First off they will tell the GFW to block all transmission of the article. For example, the title of the report and all homophones will be blocked and not appear in searches. In addition to this the author’s name may be blocked as well.
Other Controls Put in Place
But what about the fact that the article is already online? How do they control that?
Well, Beijing is fairly cunning and has a three part method of Internet enforcement. First off it will block the title, author and keywords from all subsequent searches – this is the technical part.
It then issues mandates prohibiting this article and author from appearing in search results. Lastly, Beijing forces all companies operating in China to self-censor and thus police and remove any “offensive” material. This completes Beijing’s full court press on Internet freedom.
What this shows is the incredible power that the communist party wields in policing the Internet within China. As a matter of fact, it was recently shown that almost 30% of offensive posts are removed within 5-30 minutes and almost 90% within one day. (6) In other words, the communist party maintains a very tight control of what is happening on its Internet.
This being the case, one has to wonder how it is that intellectual property rights fraud runs rampant in China. After all, if the Chinese can track down the guy who wrote essays on freedom and jail him, (7) then then surely they can track down a person selling pirated software, right?
References & Image Credits:
(2) Child pornography would be a good example in the US
(5) The use of VPN’s and https can remedy this.
(6) Cornell University Library
(8) Wikipedia: Copyright Pirates