Feeds

Beijing's Olympian censorship machine laid bare

Hot favourite for gold in net oppression

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A democracy activist working undercover at a Chinese internet company has exposed how the Beijing government is strangling online dissent ahead of next year's Olympics.

In an investigation released today by press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, "Mr Tao", a technician at an undisclosed firm, reveals details of recently-developed mechanisms for silencing opposition to the regime.

"Prior to 2005, the Beijing authorities had not really organised an internet control system," writes Tao.

Now there are at least five federal bodies whose job it is to distribute propaganda online, monitor websites, control internet companies, and clamp down on transgressors.

Today's report highlights how the State apparatus responded to reports by China Business News in 2006 that Foxconn, the iPod-manufacturing giant, was mistreating its workers.

In September, Apple leant on Foxconn to call off its witch hunt for the two journalists involved. At the same time, according to Mr Tao, Chinese website owners got a text message ordering them not to report the case. It said: "Do not disseminate reports about the Foxconn case so that it is not exploited by those who want independence to advance their cause."

One directive, dated 30 May 2006, said: "Regarding the death of a radio presenter while she was at the deputy mayor's home, do not disseminate any reports, do not send any new articles, withdraw those that have already been posted on the site."

In May and June 2006 a total of 74 directives were sent out by the Beijing Internet Information Administrative Bureau, the most active of the censorship departments. Its procedures have been sharpened this year so demands are prioritised in three categories with fines for failure to obey on time. The most urgent must be acted on within five minutes.

The bureau bans news ahead of time, orders takedowns, and demands publication of propaganda by major internet companies including Yahoo! China and Baidu, the world's second-biggest search engine after Google. Internet firms are taken on propaganda away days to encourage self-censorship.

There are between 400 and 500 banned keywords which companies self-censor behind the Great Firewall. All references to the date of the Tiananmen Square massacre - June 4 1989 - are taboo, for example.

Reporters Without Borders, working with the Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said: "This system of censorship is unparalleled anywhere in the world and is an insult to the spirit of online freedom.

"With less than a year to go before the Beijing Olympics, there is an urgent need for the government to stop blocking thousands of websites, censoring online news, and imprisoning internet activists."

Mr Tao gives Chinese web users tips on how to avoid Big Brother online, including using proxies and anonymising services such as Tor. By using the latest internet communication tools before the regime becomes aware of them, dissenters may be able to stay one step ahead of Beijing's big red pen.

The full report, entitled Journey to the heart of internet censorship, is here (pdf). ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?
Do Brits risk arrest for watching beheading video nasty? We asked the fuzz
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
EU justice chief blasts Google on 'right to be forgotten'
Don't pretend it's a freedom of speech issue – interim commish
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
This'll end well: US govt says car-to-car jibber-jabber will SAVE lives
Department of Transportation starts cogs turning for another wireless comms standard
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.