The Golden Shield Project
sometimes referred to as the Great Firewall of China
, is a censorship
and surveillance project operated by the Ministry of Public Security
(MPS) of the People's Republic of China
. The project started in 1998 and began operations in November of 2003.
In 1998 the China Communist party
feared the China Democracy Party
(CDP) would breed a powerful new network that the party elites might not be able to control. The CDP was immediately banned followed by arrests and imprisonment. That same year the Golden Shield project was started. The first part of the project lasted eight years, completing in 2006. The second part began in 2006. It will be finished in 2008. According to China Central Television
(CCTV), up to 2002, the preliminary work of the Golden Shield Project cost US$800 million (equivalent to RMB
6.4 billion, or €650 million).
On 6 December 2002, 300 people in charge of the Golden Shield project from 31 provinces and cities throughout China participated in a four-day inaugural “Comprehensive Exhibition on Chinese Information System”. At the exhibition, many western high-tech products including Internet security, video monitoring and human face recognition, were purchased. It is estimated that around 30,000 police are employed in this gigantic project.
It has been nicknamed the Great Firewall of China in reference to its role as a network firewall and to the ancient Great Wall of China. A major part of the project includes the ability to block content by preventing IP addresses from being routed through and consists of standard firewall and proxy servers at the Internet gateways. The system also selectively engages in DNS poisoning when particular sites are requested. The government does not appear to be systematically examining Internet content, as this appears to be technically impractical.
The first part of the project passed the national inspection on November 16, 2006 in Beijing.
Chinese officials told internet providers to prepare to unblock access from certain internet cafés, access jacks in hotel rooms and conference centers where foreigners were expected to work or stay during the Olympic Games.
In September 2002, Li Runsen, the technology director at MPS and member of the Golden Shield leadership, further explained this broad definition to thousands of police nationwide at a meeting in Beijing called “Information Technology for China’s Public Security”.
In October 2001, Greg Walton of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development published a report; he wrote:
In July of 2007, authorities intensified the "monitoring and control" of The Great Firewall, causing email disruption, in anticipation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting scheduled for August 2007.
Some commonly-used methods for censoring are:
- IP blocking. The access to a certain IP address is denied. If the target Web site is hosted in a shared hosting server, all Web sites on the same server will be blocked. This affects all IP protocols (mostly TCP) such as HTTP, FTP or POP. A typical circumvention method is to find proxies that have access to the target Web sites, but proxies may be jammed or blocked, and some Web sites such as Wikipedia also block proxies from editing articles. Some large Web sites such as Google allocated additional IP addresses to circumvent the block, but later the block was extended to cover the new addresses.
- DNS filtering and redirection. Don't resolve domain names, or return incorrect IP addresses. This affects all IP protocols such as HTTP, FTP or POP. A typical circumvention method is to find a domain name server that resolves domain names correctly, but domain name servers are subject to blockage as well, especially IP blocking. Another workaround is to bypass DNS if the IP address is obtainable from other sources and is not blocked. Examples are modifying the Hosts file or typing the IP address instead of the domain name in a Web browser.
- URL filtering. Scan the requested Uniform Resource Locator (URL) string for target keywords regardless of the domain name specified in the URL. This affects the HTTP protocol. Typical circumvention methods are to use escaped characters in the URL, or to use encrypted protocols such as VPN and SSL.
- Packet filtering. Terminate TCP packet transmissions when a certain number of controversial keywords are detected. This affects all TCP protocols such as HTTP, FTP or POP, but Search engine pages are more likely to be censored. Typical circumvention methods are to use encrypted protocols such as VPN and SSL, to escape the HTML content, or reducing the TCP/IP stack's MTU, thus reducing the amount of text contained in a given packet.
- Connection reset. If a previous TCP connection is blocked by the filter, future connection attempts from both sides will also be blocked for up to 30 minutes. Depending on the location of the block, other users or Web sites may be also blocked if the communications are routed to the location of the block. A circumvention method is to ignore the reset packet sent by the firewall.
While search results appear to be unfiltered, if the user clicks on a censored page it will not display.
Mainland Chinese Internet censorship
programs have censored Web sites that include (among other things):
- BBC News (Chinese edition)
- Web sites belonging to outlawed or suppressed groups, such as Falun Gong and pro-democracy activists
- News sources that often cover some taboo topics such as police brutality, Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, freedom of speech, democracy, and Marxist sites. These sites include Voice of America and the Chinese edition of BBC News.
- Sites related to the Taiwanese government, media, or other organizations, including sites dedicated to religious content. The Taiwanese-language version of parody wiki Uncyclopedia (as zh.uncyclopedia.info) also appears to be blocked, as of September 2007.
- Web sites that contain anything the Chinese authorities regard as obscenity or pornography
- Web sites relating to criminal activity
- Sites linked with the Dalai Lama and his International Tibet Independence Movement, including his teachings
- Most blogging sites, such as blogger.com, wordpress.com, experience frequent or permanent outages
- Web sites deemed as subversive
Blocked Web sites are indexed to a lesser degree, if at all, by some Chinese search engines, such as Baidu and Google China. This sometimes has considerable impact on search results.
According to The New York Times, Google has set up computer systems inside China that try to access Web sites outside the country. If a site is inaccessible, then it is added to Google China's blacklist. However, once unblocked, the Web sites will be reindexed.
- Using a proxy server outside China
- Companies can establish regional Web sites within China. This prevents their content from going through the Great Firewall; however, it requires companies to apply for local ICP licenses.
- The Great Firewall cannot filter secure traffic, such as traffic sent over virtual private network connections.
- Onion routing, such as Tor, can be used.
- Freegate is a program that takes advantage of a number of open proxies for bypassing firewalls; it can be used as well.
Certain sites have begun to be unblocked, including:
- The English language BBC Website, (but not the Chinese-language Website).
- Wikipedia.org, including Chinese-language edition, but only in areas where foreign journalists are staying in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics .
- Social websites and free web hosting sites such as Myspace, and bravenet.com.
- Some news sites such as CNN and NBC.