Academic Group Issues Results of Major Study on Chinese Government Internet Censorship
The OpenNet Initiative (ONI) released a comprehensive report on April 14 detailing how the Chinese government censors political information on the Internet. ONI is a collaboration of researchers at Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Toronto who work on Internet censorship and surveillance issues. According to ONI:
Our testing found efforts to prevent access to a wide range of sensitive materials, from pornography to religious material to political dissent. Unlike the filtering systems in many other countries, China's filtering regime appears to be carried out at various control points and also to be changing over time. China operates the most extensive, technologically sophisticated, and broad-reaching system of Internet filtering in the world. China's intricate technical filtering regime is buttressed by an equally complex series of laws and regulations that control the access to and publication of material online.
A copy of the study is available here [pdf].
Forum 18, a religious freedom NGO based in Norway, also published a study in July 2004 on Chinese government Internet censorship focused against religious Web sites. Like ONI, Forum 18 found that the Chinese government blocks access to large numbers of Web sites, including sites related to Christianity, Islam, the Dalai Lama, and Falun Gong.
Internet Filtering in China in 2004-2005: A Country Study Internet Filtering in China in 2004-2005 (PDF Version) China’s Internet filtering regime is the most sophisticated effort of its kind in the world. Compared to similar efforts in other states, China’s filtering regime is pervasive, sophisticated, and effective. It comprises multiple levels of legal regulation and technical control. It involves numerous state agencies and thousands of public and private personnel. It censors content transmitted through multiple methods, including Web pages, Web logs, on-line discussion forums, university bulletin board systems, and e-mail messages. Our testing found efforts to prevent access to a wide range of sensitive materials, from pornography to religious material to political dissent. Chinese citizens seeking access to Web sites containing content related to Taiwanese and Tibetan independence, Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama, the Tiananmen Square incident, opposition political parties, or a variety of anti-Communist movements will frequently find themselves blocked. While it is difficult to describe this widespread filtering with precision, our research documents a system that imposes strong controls on its citizens’ ability to view Internet content. Unlike the filtering systems in many other countries, China’s filtering regime appears to be carried out at various control points and also to be dynamic, changing along a variety of axes over time. This combination of factors leads to a great deal of supposition as to how and why China filters the Internet. These complexities also make it very difficult to render a clear and accurate picture of Internet filtering in China at any given moment. Filtering takes place primarily at the backbone level of China’s network, though individual Internet service providers also implement their own blocking. Our research confirmed claims that major Chinese search engines filter content by keyword and remove certain search results from their lists. Similarly, major Chinese Web log (“blog”) service providers either prevent posts with certain keywords or edit the posts to remove them. We found also that some keyword searches were blocked by China’s gateway filtering and not the search engines themselves. Cybercafés, which provide an important source of access to the Internet for many Chinese, are required by law to track Internet usage by customers and to keep correlated information on file for 60 days. As a further indication of the complexity of China’s filtering regime, we found several instances where particular URLs were blocked but the domain was accessible, despite the fact that the source of content appeared consistent across the domain