Archive for the ‘Censorship’ Category

Blog Blues

23 January 08

Although I didn’t blog much while in Spain, it would have been infinitely easier there. Blogging in China is a real headache. Over the last 2.5 years in China, I have witnessed a noticeable decline in Internet usability. Maybe it is just me, maybe it is not. It just seems that more websites than ever are blocked. Proxy servers that were usable in the past are now blocked. (TOR still works most of the time!) I hear that YouTube will be blocked permanently soon.

WordPress, of course, continues to be blocked. Using TOR to access my blog and update posts is my only option, but it has gotten really slow lately. All that waiting around for pages to load stifles my creativity!

I’ve got a solution in the works. I’ve purchased my own domain name and web space. Soon my blog will be transferred from wordpress.com to its own home. Of course my long term plan is to leave China. Knowing how my life works, however, I may leave China and end up in a country where Internet censorship exists, as well.

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Beware Europe!

22 December 07
China is not the only country engaging in Internet filtering and censorship. Be very wary, it could happen in your own backyard!
From a Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) listserv I belong to:

Music Industry Pressures EU Politicians for Filtered Internet

The music and film industry continues to pursue its idea of a politically “corrected” Internet – one that they imagine could protect their old business models without requiring any extra costs on their part. This time, the fix is Internet-wide filtering. In a memo to European policy-makers, the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) has called upon ISPs in Europe to filter the content sent across their networks, block protocols used by their customers, and cut off access to persistently infringing sites from the Net.

Disturbingly, European politicians seem open to the idea of ISPs policing and interfering with their customers’ communications on behalf of rightsholders. Last month, the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) tabled an amendment to a Parliamentary report that changed a request to “rethink the critical issue of intellectual property”, into a call for “internet service providers to apply filtering measures to prevent copyright infringements”.

EFF sent a letter pointing out that some of the groups hardest hit by blanket Internet filtering measures would be artists and teachers. But building filtering and censorship tools is not just bad for creators and education; it’s bad for all of society. Any country that has a centralized system in place to pry into its citizen’s private communications creates a very disturbing precedent and a dangerously powerful tool, vulnerable to misuse. Perhaps the music industry’s European lobbyists have lost sight of the serious collateral damage their proposals would cause, but European citizens and their elected policymakers should not.

For the full IFPI memo requesting filtering from ISPs:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/effeurope/ifpi_filtering_memo.pdf

For EFF Europe’s letter addressing calls for ISPs to filter for copyright
infringement:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/effeurope/CULT-filtering-letter.pdf

For this post:
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2007/12/music-industry-europe-filter-pressure

Reproduction of this publication in electronic media is encouraged.

Yahoo is for Yahoos

5 December 07

Or, Something Infuriating.

Censorship sucks. Plain and simple. Yahoo promotes censorship, of this I’m sure.

Yahoo Betrays Free Speech

New York Times Editorial – 02 December 2007

For a company that ostensibly believes in the Internet’s liberating power, Yahoo has a gallingly backward understanding of the value of free expression.

The company helped Beijing’s state police uncover the Internet identities of two Chinese journalists, who were handed 10 years in prison for disseminating pro-democracy writings. Testifying before Congress last year about one case, Yahoo’s legal counsel said the company was unaware of the nature of the investigation. Did he miss the language about providing “state secrets to foreign entities” — a red flag for a political prosecution?

Last month, Yahoo settled a suit by the families of the jailed journalists but it did not admit doing wrong and is refusing to change its procedures to avoid becoming a stool pigeon for China’s police state again.

Yahoo’s collaboration is appalling, and Yahoo is not the only American company helping the Chinese government repress its people. Microsoft shut down a blogger at Beijing’s request. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft censor searches in China. Cisco Systems provided hardware used by Beijing to censor and monitor the Internet.

These companies argue that it is better for the Chinese people to have a censored Internet than no Internet. They say that they must abide by the laws of the countries they operate in. But the Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, the press, association and assembly. Those guarantees may be purely symbolic, but these companies — which loudly protest Chinese piracy of their intellectual property — have not tried to resist. What they are resisting are efforts in Congress that could help them stand against repressive governments.

Last January, Representative Christopher Smith of New Jersey reintroduced the Global Online Freedom Act in the House. It would fine American companies that hand over information about their customers to foreign governments that suppress online dissent. The bill would at least give American companies a solid reason to decline requests for data, but the big Internet companies do not support it. That shows how much they care about the power of information to liberate the world.

Because I use Yahoo’s photo service, Flickr, and I visit Yahoo Groups, I feel like I am supporting Yahoo’s position. I’ve said it before, and I continue to stand by my decision. Over the next month I will be removing my photos from Flickr and I will close my account. I have decided that I will find another way to host my photos, one that feels more comfortable. Will Yahoo care? Of course not. But I cannot consciously continue to do business with them. Not when they have placed profit over the values that I cherish above all.

Celebrate the Freedom to Read

30 September 07

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Ray Bradbury

ireadbannedbooks.jpg

This week is banned books week in the US, and it is all the more pertinent to me since I live in a society where books are frequently banned, movies are censored, protests are squashed, news is propaganda and the Internet is filtered. And if my blog wasn’t blocked before, it probably is now.

Reading over ALA’s (American Library Association – America’s top freedom fighters. Librarians aren’t all grannies in glasses!) banned books website, I am not a bit surprised to see that, once again, we are worried about our kids reading the classics and getting ideas. Scary! To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – perennial guests on the banned books list.

I headed over to google to see what websites are saying about banned books week. Of course, how many pages was I actually able to load? Thanks Great Firewall. Time to turn on the TOR. Actually, I’ve noticed that lately, I am surfing with it on almost all the time. Slows things down a little, but it is good practice with being patient. All good things come in time.

Funny that the website I was able to open without the proxy was a “pro-family”, ultra-conservative, conspiracy theory website condemning the ALA as an organization that wants to turn America’s youth gay. Not sure how that one made it past the GFW! The ironic thing is that librarians are taught – at least at my school – to be so pro-freedom to read, that they would never deny anyone the right to read that website, even as they bad mouth the profession. A library is a place for everyone, and all views should be evenly represented. Not that this happens in all libraries, but it is what librarians should strive for and what the ALA recommends. Another thing the ALA recommends is that parents take responsibility for what their children read, not the librarians.

The very idea of freedom to read and freedom to access information involve no value judgment on what people choose, however, librarians are human too and some cannot separate their own personal values and beliefs from the professional. And that is truly a shame. I’m not afraid to say that maybe they shouldn’t be librarians.

“Banned Books Week is about upholding a fundamental American value,” says Gorman. [Michael Gorman is a former ALA president.] “We don’t believe in suppressing other peoples’ right to read. I’m a university librarian in a large-ish institution, so it’s very easy for me. The whole institution believes in access of information and freedom of inquiry. People working in a small rural library, where the most challenges are issued, can be very isolated. And we tend to want them to do the whole Gregory Peck act and stand up and defy their challengers. The dilemma is a lot more complicated. Banned Books Week says to those rural librarians, ‘You’re not alone.’ ”

Garden [Nancy Garden, banned author] sympathizes with the librarians facing those challenges, too, and considers a book challenge a good time to talk. “Librarians have to listen to the objections that people have to books,” says Garden. “But I think it’s important to say things like, ‘Well, look, we can’t remove this stuff, but if you want to tell us materials that you would like us to put in the library, which represent your viewpoint, we can put those in, too.’ ”

Conversation is often a good starting point for Ball [Miranda Ball, a library director in rural Alabama], who has intervened when kids check out books she thinks are too advanced for them—when a ten-year-old came to her with Stephen King’s Carrie, Ball explained to her that the book might be too advanced. “So then she wanted to read Anne Rice, and I said ‘I don’t think you want to read that either, honey,’ ” says Ball. “But I told her, ‘If you want to get it out, then go ahead.’ ”

“I am a conservative Christian, and I have a two-year-old daughter, and there are things I won’t want her reading. But I don’t want anyone else telling me what she can read,” says Ball. “And I’m sure not going to tell other people what they can read.”

The Book Standard – September 2005

The top banned books of the 21st century?
1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
2. “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier
3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
4. “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
5. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
6. “Fallen Angels” by Walter Dean Myers
7. “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie Harris
8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
10. “Forever” by Judy Blume

What can you do to observe banned books week?

For further reading:
Amnesty International remembers the authors persecuted for sharing information. (Not available in China without a proxy.)
The Forbidden Library
Top 100 Banned Books – 1990 to 2000

“Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there.”  — Clare Booth Luce

Flickr Issues

3 September 07

Flickr, the place where I upload all my photos, continues to be blocked within China. I wrote before about how I am looking for a flickr alternative, but in the meantime, I have found a way to access Flickr, and I want to share it with others who may also be having problems.

There is an add-on for Mozilla Firefox users that will allow you to once again see Flickr without using Tor. (An awesome resource for anonymous blogging! Go here if you want to know more.) And if you are not using Firefox, may I ask why not? Go here and download it now!! It is a million times better and safer than Internet Explorer!

BTW, I have been uploading as many photos as I can to Flickr and organizing them there so they can be viewed by all. Please visit my Flickr page and choose any of the collections down the right side of the screen. I will be adding more photos as time allows, including more photos of China and Canada.

I Love Censorship

25 July 07

The Great Firewall of China is such a strange thing. For almost a year I have had no direct access to this blog, then one day – *ta da* – I can access it no problem. For how long, I have no idea. But by no means am I free of censorship. For several months now I have been unable to use Flickr, the site where I upload and store all of my photos. Flickr is definitely being blocked by the Great Firewall. I can still access it when I use my anti-censorship software, but I am beginning to wonder what the point is.

It is really annoying to have to use proxy servers and special software just to access these sites, and I am not really all that hip on Yahoo anyway. (Yahoo is the parent company of Flickr and has cooperated with Chinese authorities to hand over information on emails that eventually led to the imprisonment of Shi Tao, for “spreading state secrets” about the Tienanmen Square “incident.”) So, is there an alternative? Does anyone know of a photo storage site that is equivalent to Flickr but available in Mainland China? I have a paid account at Flickr and will continue to use it until it expires, then I will move somewhere else.

In one of my Library School classes we have been discussing censorship and libraries (the American Library Association is vehemently opposed to it, including Internet filtering software) and I get the idea that most of my classmates have no idea what censorship really is. They have never really had experience with it – but watch out America! I can sense more and more threats to intellectual freedom in America everyday. (Including the Patriot Act, which is not about censorship, but, in the library, severely compromises patron’s rights to privacy and intellectual freedom.) I shared my experiences with my classmates – having entire passages excised or blacked out of my high school history textbooks, not being able to access web pages, having to keep your mouth shut to avoid deportation…

Having seen the effects of censorship, I say NO! Because every time we censor, we take one step closer to a totalitarian society. (You know, like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco…) I live in that type of society now, by choice, and I can leave whenever I want. Those around me can’t. They have to bribe local officials to even apply for a passport. You can see the effects of this everyday – lack of initiative, stifled creativity, no critical thinking skills. Is that what we want in America? Information is power – something leaders understand all too well. They fear the people becoming informed and thinking for themselves. Instead, they are fed propaganda and made to learn by rote.

The key to reversing this disease is information and intellectual freedom. Allow the people to form their own opinions, choose their own course and freely discuss issues. Protect intellectual freedom in America, it is one of our greatest achievements!

I am extremely proud that I have joined a profession that stands so passionately for intellectual freedom. Librarians are the first to oppose censorship, in the form of book banning, Internet filtering and lack of access to information, the first to resist the Patriot Act and its threats to our freedom (repeal it!!), the first to support open access to information for all people.

Having lived in societies where censorship is the norm and openly practiced, I think the best thing I can do is to warn others about what I have experienced and how, if we are not careful, it could happen to us, even in the USA.

**Edited post wording regarding the Patriot Act, which, indeed, does not discuss the issue of censorship or provide for censorship, although it most certainly will cause some people to self-censor and does restrict our intellectual freedoms, as noted succinctly by the American Library Association:

The American Library Association (ALA) opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information or to intimidate individuals exercising free inquiry…ALA considers that sections of the USA PATRIOT ACT are a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users.”from ALA’s Resolution on the USA PATRIOT Act.

Protest

8 June 07

Blogging is difficult in China. My blogging platform, WordPress, is banned in China. For me to be able to update, I have to launch a program called Tor which allows me to bypass the Great Firewall of China. It is slow, and sometimes it just doesn’t want to work. I’ve maintained a mirror of my blog on Mindsay so that I’d have a backup in case of Tor failure, and also so local friends can read my blog without using proxy websites. Today I’ve discovered a new problem.

In the Southern China city of Xiamen, protests have been taking place over the planned construction of a chemical plant. The local residents don’t want another polluting factory disrupting their health and lives. I am far from Xiamen, so I am relying on the Internet to get information, but from what I have read, this protest sounds so awesome. It is a very remarkable thing that the locals are standing up for something they truly believe. Their numbers are so great that their message cannot be hidden from the people.

Protests are not unheard of in China, in fact, they are happening more and more. Peasants unhappy over land grabs, women upset over forced abortions and sterilizations, hospitals attacked for refusing to treat patients without cash-in-hand are a few of the recent protests I’ve heard about. The things is, you don’t usually hear about them. They are squashed as soon as possible. Protesters are dragged away, shot at and detained. The media just doesn’t cover them. Until now. Until blogging and SMS messages, Flickr photo sites and YouTube video upload. More than ever, Chinese are waging Web 2.0 protests. Click on the Web 2.0 link and be astounded. It is an amazing thing to see these people letting their opinions be known.

Of course, this doesn’t sit well with the local officials and the central government. Action must be taken. The Internet must be filtered, censored, blocked. As of today, all of my photos on the photo site Flickr are showing up as empty boxes. (Without the Tor program – with the Tor program I can see them.) This means, that even on my Mindsay blog, which is not blocked, my photos will not be seen.

I am not so concerned about being blocked. My voice is heard by friends and family, mostly in the US and other countries. I am a foreigner who chooses to live here. But for the Chinese voices that need to be heard in China, the filtering and blocking is monumental. Once again, the people are being silenced. Controlled. But for how long?

Steven Banick made this comment on Global Voices, and it sums up nicely my thoughts:

…for sure, the authorities are “cracking down” and heads are rolling, but holding back the inexorable tide of the information age is like that li’l ol Dutch boy…

Yes, this may sound naive at the moment, but for those of us who remember Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the economic and “human interest” changes with China are stunning. Several hundred million middle class people increasingly more engaged in/on the world market, traveling, et al, will not be able to be “held back” in the long run.

As General Patton said, “fixed fortifications are a monument to man’s stupidity.” Thus it will be with Chinese firewalls, bit by bit (yes with some setbacks) as China modernizes, seeks, questions, stirs the pot…

So here is my own protest: One of my favorite photos, taken in Tibet, of a little monk who stood strong against his minders who wanted him to go back into the monastery and stop playing with the ram who had wandered close to the monastery entrance. He was mischievous and wanted to play. He was defiant. (I’m not sure that is what monks are supposed to do.) He wanted it his way.

Little Monk

These protesters have my highest praise. Good for you. Stay strong and do it your way.

Global Voices Silenced in China?

5 June 07

You’ve heard me talk about Global Voices before. It is one of my favorite sources for stories and blogs from across the world. Basically, it is a website that aggregates blog posts from different areas, translates many into English and points out the most interesting stories from a given area. I’ve learned all kinds of things from their email newsletters. Like today, I wanted to read about planned Tienanmen Massacre observances in Hong Kong, and some of the top blog posts out of Kuwait. Instead, I got the “can’t find this page” screen. Odd. I usually don’t have problems accessing GV. Hmmm. Kept trying, but no luck. Is it just me or has Global Voices been banned in China? They do offer up a lot of links to blogs and content that may be anti-party line.

If it is true, I’ve got my trusty proxy to get around the great firewall, but it is a shame nonetheless.

Project Censored

31 May 07

Expand your mind a bit with the top 25 censored stories of 2007. Among the stories are:

  1. Future of Internet Debate
  2. Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran
  3. Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger
  4. Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US
  5. High-Tech Genocide in the Congo
  6. Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy
  7. US Operatives Tortured Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq
  8. Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act
  9. The World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall
  10. Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians
  11. Dangers of Genetically Modified Foods Confirmed
  12. Pentagon Plans to Build New Landmines
  13. New Evidence Establishes Danger of Roundup
  14. Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US
  15. Chemical Industry is EPA’s Primary Research Partner
  16. Ecuador and Mexico Defy US on International Criminal Court
  17. Iraq Invasion Promotes OPEC Agenda
  18. Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story
  19. Destruction of Rainforests Worst Ever
  20. Bottled Water: A Global Environmental Problem
  21. Gold Mining Threatens Ancient Andean Glaciers
  22. $Billions in Homeland Security Spending Undisclosed
  23. US Oil Targets Kyoto in Europe
  24. Cheney’s Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent Last Year
  25. US Military in Paraguay Threatens Region

As far as I can tell, many of these stories come from known newspapers and organizations. Whether you agree with their findings or not, it is always valuable to read something from different points of view.  Project Censored is a media research group with Sonoma State University. They track news stories printed in independent journals and newsletters, pointing out the most underreported stories in the mainstream press.

I Have Successfully Tunneled Under the Great Firewall of China

20 November 06

Ha! Take that Great Firewall of China! Thanks to Tor I am blogging all willy-nilly on a blocked blogging platform within China!! (Also thanks the Firefox – the google search bar is the only way I can access google!) I am quite shocked that there is a noticeable difference in the amount of website blockages in just the last three months!

See, after a long journey passing through 7 airports (Aviles, Madrid, Frankfurt, Shanghai Pudong, Shanghai Hongqiao, Qingdao & Linyi) I finally arrived to Linyi only to find wordpress blogs blocked within China. I panicked, until common sense sent me searching for a way around the censorship. I am glad to report where there is a will, there is a way! For those of you in China and in despair, Tor is your new best friend. It is seamless and integrated (and slow!) but you don’t have to go to a pesky proxy website everytime you want to visit a blocked site.
So I’m here, I’m online, and I’m okay! I spent most of the day figuring out how to blog freely, and now I am cold, hungry and ready to go home so I will be updating with news of Linyi and more tomorrow.