The Great Firewall of China

“The Great Firewall of China: An Evaluation of Internet Censorship in China” by Lacey Alford is a research paper detailing some of the capabilities of the China’s Golden Shield Project

The Golden Shield Project is more commonly known as the “Great Firewall of China.”

According to the article, “China’s Golden Shield is sustained by western-developed software and hardware applications and serves to monitor and block access to on-line sources. These
methods include: laws, licenses, content filtering, tapping, surveillance, pricing, taxation, telecommunication manipulation, hardware and software manipulation, and self censorship.”

The Chinese government does not disclose anything about the Golden Shield to outsiders, so it is up to researchers to gauge and measure the scope of influence the Shield has, such as what can be viewed and what is blocked.

Alford’s study used similar methodology to Zittrain’s ONI group, which was referenced in the book “Access Denied.”

One thing that was done differently was that Alford used the Chinese version of Google, which did not exist at the time of other studies.

It should be noted that the research for this paper was performed in 2008, which means that the Google.cn used was the “original” Google.cn. As of March 2010, Google has started to redirect traffic to Google.com.hk, the portal for Hong Kong’s Google site.

The Hong Kong Google is not as heavily censored as the mainland’s Google.

This study used the same, if not, similar keywords in the search. The first hundred sites returned were checked for errors or acceptance.

On the surface, it appears that Alford’s study resulted in less blocked sites than any of the two previous studies. I’d like to know if any of the previously blocked sites turned up again and if they were revealed to be unblocked.

One thing that’s odd, is that for the first few months of the study, Alford reports that BBC, Wikipedia, and another site had been blocked (and had been blocked for years) yet toward the end of her research became unblocked, which leads credence to a possibility that China is loosening the reins on its Internet control.

An extensive series of appendices shows each searched for term and which sites were blocked or not blocked.

In a future study, I would like to see how these same results fare using Baidu, the top Chinese search engine.

VDM Publishing site.

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