Father Of The Great Firewall Defends Chinese Internet Censorship By Noting The US Does The Same Thing

from the not-quite...-but... dept

The LA Times points us to a fascinating (English-language) interview with the guy in China credited with creating that country's Great Firewall censorship system, named Fang Binxing. The interview has a bunch of interesting nuggets -- including the fact that he has 5 VPN accounts to get around his own Great Firewall. Though, to be fair, he insists that those VPNs are for research only, to make sure the Great Firewall is doing what it's supposed to do.

The report also notes that Fang appears to be widely hated throughout China. When he recently joined a Twitter-like Chinese "microblogging" clone, he was immediately attacked by angry citizens who hate the Great Firewall. I actually find this admission quite fascinating, because the Chinese government, for many years, has tried to spin things to the rest of the world by claiming that most Chinese appreciated the censorship, because it kept them focused/less distracted/less subjected to dumb TV. However, Fang's admission suggests a lot of people are not at all happy about the Great Firewall.

But, the most interesting point of all is how he defends the Great Firewall by claiming that pretty much every other country -- including the US -- does something similar:
Such a firewall is a "common phenomenon around the world," he argues, and nor is China alone in monitoring and controlling the Internet.

"As far as I know, about 180 countries including South Korea and the US monitor the Internet as well."
Of course, "monitoring" the internet, and totally censoring it are two very different things. Still, this does highlight a point we've made a few times around here. Every time the US does something that appears to weaken freedom of speech or set up some sort of censorship system like COICA, we have less and less credibility or leverage when it comes to other countries and trying to convince them not to censor online services.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 10:04am

    When you want to hold yourself up as a standard...

    you need to make sure that it is a standard that is good. the US has was once a an incredible example of true personal, individual freedom. Freedom in all things within basic boundaries of decent human behavior. But we have evolved in to a country trying to stifle innovation and force wrong ideas of protectionism on the world. We as a country created the network that would give rise to the greatest information distributional system the world has ever known. Why now can we not see that what we did (with warts and zits) is always going to be better than stopping the spread on information for whatever purpose!

    Power breeds the need to control anything that could lessen your power.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Marc, 18 Feb 2011 @ 11:29am

      Re: When you want to hold yourself up as a standard...

      " the US has was once a an incredible example of true personal, individual freedom. Freedom in all things within basic boundaries of decent human behavior."

      Please provide a 10-year period during which U.S. was the magical fairy land.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        senshikaze (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 11:43am

        Re: Re: When you want to hold yourself up as a standard...

        I think there were a few months in 1776. Maybe.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Christopher (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 1:43pm

        Re: Re: When you want to hold yourself up as a standard...

        I would say never. The fact is that the United States has ALWAYS had it's boogie men who they railed against.

        Heterosexuals outside of marriage.
        Homosexuals.
        Blacks having sex with whites.
        Today, pedosexuals.

        Tomorrow, it will be someone else.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        weneedhelp (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 2:22pm

        Re: Re: When you want to hold yourself up as a standard...

        23 years ago I was in Amsterdam and it was like we were rock stars in the coffee shops. Oh the American guys are here they would say, and before we knew it we were dispelling myths (our streets were lined with gold. No kidding Ali from Turkey really thought that.) and letting ppl know about our culture. It was truly amazing, everyone loved us, and it really changed my perspective. They treated each other much better than we do. I dont know if the magical fairy land ever existed, but the perception did. I would be curios how we would be received today?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 10:26am

    I liked the part in the interview where they posted things on Fang Binxing's blog and called him a "running dog".

    http://www.forumosa.com/taiwan/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=94865

    LOL!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Martin, 18 Feb 2011 @ 10:51am

    Check which websites and searches are blocked in mainland China at http://www.greatfirewall.biz

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ron (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 11:01am

    We Do It ...

    We do it, so they're gonna do it. If all the US Internet censors and supporters of censorship jumped off a bridge, would he Chiness equivalents do that as well? Oh, wait, that would be a good thing. Carry on!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 11:04am

    But... But... CENSORSHIP!

    Oh Mike, you are so transparent at times. If Fidel Castro came out against patents and copyrights, you would call him a great forward thinking man who supports freedom.

    Watching you go when you get onto something is really quite amusing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 11:25am

    "When he recently joined a Twitter-like Chinese "microblogging" clone [...] because it kept them focused/less distracted/less subjected to dumb TV [...]"

    Makes sense to me. There are a lot of people in China. Most are focused/less distracted/not wasting their time on a microblogging clone and the others don't like the great firewall :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    known coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 11:25am

    like i tell my kids

    Do as I say, not as I do.

    of course that does not work so well with adults.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    weneedhelp (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 11:31am

    Though, to be fair, he insists that those VPNs are for research only

    This weeks "research" topic, the female anatomy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 12:00pm

    Censorship and monitoring are not two completely different things.
    Where a person or group of people know they are being monitored, this tends to have a chilling effect on freedom of speech. This is the reason most courts uphold the anonymous comments as protected.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mike, 18 Feb 2011 @ 12:05pm

    Bullshit

    This argument is so transparently vacant it's no wonder no one with any power has bought this.


    Computer and Communications Industry Association President Ed Black questioned Morton on whether the seizure of domain names sets a precedent that will allow less Democratic governments around the world such as China or Iran to seize domain names in the name of intellectual property protection but are really aimed at shutting down political speech they oppose.

    Morton said the agency must balance competing interests but added that "my view is that I don't want to pursue work on ICE based on concerns on how another country may misapply what we're doing."


    http://techdailydose.nationaljournal.com/2011/01/customs-chief-defends-seizure.php

    The US has always enforced laws. But because other countries abuse laws, we no longer can have any at all?

    Ludicrous as always.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mke, 18 Feb 2011 @ 12:06pm

    B.S.

    This argument is so transparently vacant it's no wonder no one with any power has bought this.


    Computer and Communications Industry Association President Ed Black questioned Morton on whether the seizure of domain names sets a precedent that will allow less Democratic governments around the world such as China or Iran to seize domain names in the name of intellectual property protection but are really aimed at shutting down political speech they oppose.

    Morton said the agency must balance competing interests but added that "my view is that I don't want to pursue work on ICE based on concerns on how another country may misapply what we're doing."


    http://techdailydose.nationaljournal.com/2011/01/customs-chief-defends-seizure.php

    The US has always enforced laws. But because other countries abuse laws, we no longer can have any at all?

    Ludicrous as always.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mke, 18 Feb 2011 @ 12:06pm

    Ludicrous

    This argument is so transparently vacant it's no wonder no one with any power has bought this.

    From the National Journal:

    Computer and Communications Industry Association President Ed Black questioned Morton on whether the seizure of domain names sets a precedent that will allow less Democratic governments around the world such as China or Iran to seize domain names in the name of intellectual property protection but are really aimed at shutting down political speech they oppose.

    Morton said the agency must balance competing interests but added that "my view is that I don't want to pursue work on ICE based on concerns on how another country may misapply what we're doing."


    The US has always enforced laws. But because other countries abuse laws, we no longer can have any at all?

    Ludicrous as always.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      The eejit (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 12:20pm

      Re: Ludicrous

      Nice strawman. That's the whole of the logic being used by other nations. The ICE seizures look a lot like censorship, so naturally, other, more repressive, nations are going to use that as an excuse.

      How is that not a logical extension of what's being said?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 12:26pm

        Re: Re: Ludicrous

        Law enforcement often looks like censorship to the guilty and their friends.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        crade (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 12:26pm

        Re: Re: Ludicrous

        look a lot like censorship? The ICE seizures are censorship. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Mike, 18 Feb 2011 @ 12:42pm

        Re: Re: Ludicrous

        Who cares? Do you really think China needs America shutting down piracy to censor its people? Newsflash: it's been doing it all on its own for years.

        Or do you really think Iran needs America speaking out against The Pirate Bay to shut down civil rights? Reality has already spoken, and no it doesn't.

        Did you know that (*gasp*) in America we put criminals in JAIL? But surely evil nations will use that as an excuse to unfairly incarcerate people in turn!?

        Quick! Empty the prisons! China might be ready to jail another activist!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          crade (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 1:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

          The trouble comes when you start using the shotgun approach like this. The US shutting down piracy is no big deal if thats what they were doing. Taking down the whole sites that include all sort of innocent people's stuff is when you get into trouble.. It's more like if putting criminals in jail was too much work, so the US just put the whole town where the crime occured in jail. *Then* the other countries who put innocents in jail would say "so what the U.S. does the same thing".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Gwiz (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 2:21pm

          Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

          Who cares? Do you really think China needs America shutting down piracy to censor its people? Newsflash: it's been doing it all on its own for years.

          Nope. You are right. They don't need the US to anything to keep doing what they have been doing.

          The problem is that when the US starts doing these types of activities themselves it erodes the ethical foundation away and the US will no longer be able to stand on the high ground and decry such things anymore.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 8:13pm

          Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

          Did you know that gasp! America puts mothers in jail for filming their kids birthday party?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2011 @ 6:00am

          Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

          E- Poor effort. See me after class.

          Iran and China aren't trying to bully the rest of the world into increasing repressive measures whilst hypocritically pretending they are against such measures, like the US does.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Marcus Carab (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 12:36pm

      Re: Ludicrous

      "my view is that I don't want to pursue work on ICE based on concerns on how another country may misapply what we're doing."

      See, that would make perfect sense, except for one thing: the U.S. is extremely vocal about being anti-censorship in other countries, and constantly makes statements to the effect that they ARE concerned about how other states around the world treat the internet, as well as dedicating money to promoting internet freedom overseas. They can't have it both ways.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Mike, 18 Feb 2011 @ 12:51pm

        Re: Re: Ludicrous

        Why can't you be in favor of shutting down piracy, child porn, and terrorist websites and still be in favor of freedom for political speech?

        It's always been that way in America.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          crade (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 1:01pm

          Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

          terrorist websites are probably going be mostly political speech for one thing... You would have to say you are in favour of certain types of political speech.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Marcus Carab (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 1:03pm

          Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

          You can. But it means you have to be extremely careful - not reckless and indiscriminate - when shutting down the bad things.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Christopher (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 1:45pm

          Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

          You cannot. The fact is that child pornography is just the new 'boogie man' foisted on society like pedosexuality is used as a boogie man in the same way.

          Terrorist websites? Would that be any website that calls for the overthrow of the United States? Which, by the way, our own Founding Fathers said was a viable choice.
          Another salient point, most of the 'terrorists' have been created by the United States own bad actions in the world in the past 100 years.

          Piracy? Get real, you are never going to get rid of that, and companies are just going to have to 'compete with free' by giving people things at a reasonable price with the peace of mind that those things are not virus/malware infested.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 2:17pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

            The fact is that child pornography is just the new 'boogie man' foisted on society like pedosexuality is used as a boogie man in the same way.

            It isn't a new boogie man. It's the same item that has been used since the internet went commercial back in the mid 90s. See acts like COPA, COPAII, the Adam Walsh Law, all the administrative changes to laws like USC 18 section 2256 and 2257 (regarding commercial adult sites), and so on... all are done "to protect the kids", but have little or no "kid protection" in them.

            Child porn is a real issue. What ICE is doing is actually somewhat more effective than the usual hand wringing and finger pointing.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 2:21pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

              Why don't they just label everyone a child pornographer? I think it would solve this piracy thing.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 3:26pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

                Funny enough, the more people try to hide what they are doing online, the more likely they are going to be targeted by laws using whatever boogie-man is in fashion at the time. Child porn is an ongoing issue on the internet, and likely to be a very popular public face of aggressive attacks against everything from legal porn to piracy.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 3:52pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

                  And they say freedom is dead.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  Ron Rezendes (profile), 18 Feb 2011 @ 4:35pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

                  "Funny enough, the more people try to hide what they are doing online, the more likely they are going to be targeted by laws using whatever boogie-man is in fashion at the time." You have made the point I prefer right there, in that statement! I don't want to hide anything I do online and unless it is something that is actually criminal in nature, IT'S NOBODY'S FUCKING BUSINESS - ESPECIALLY MY GOVERNMENT! However, when ICE (my gov't) independently decides that some sites might have done something wrong and remove the use of those sites without ANY proof, charges, or the use of due process as guaranteed to the citizens of this country by our founding fathers then the target needs to be the government agency who has overstepped their authority and ignored the rights of the citizens for whom they serve!

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 8:46pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

                    Ron, the sites did enough wrong to justify the judge signing the warrant for seizure of the domains. That is more than just randomly selected domains and knocking them off for fun.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2011 @ 1:06am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

                      How do you know that?

                      I can also say the sites did nothing wrong as not one of them has had a hearing in a court of law.

                      Also the screw up shutting down 84.000 websites in one seizure is just a hint that those domains are not being checked correctly and the judge is just rubber stamping everything that comes his way.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • identicon
                        Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2011 @ 6:13am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

                        *sigh*

                        The hearing in court comes after. It may never happen if the people are not US citizens or residents, as they may never answer a summons.

                        As for the "84,000", please try to follow along. They shut down a single domain. That the domain had "sold" or "given out" 84,000 sub-domains doesn't change anything at all. It is one single domain. The third level domains are a contract between the dynamic DNS people and their users, not subject to the rules and laws that exist for domain names, not part of the domain name agreement.

                        Thanks for playing, but if you are going to rant, try ranting about things that have some basis in law.

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        • icon
                          Jay (profile), 19 Feb 2011 @ 10:02am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

                          Due process is one of those things.

                          How about ICE try to do something constructive than alert the pedos that they're on to them and force them to flee like roaches?

                          If you're going to rant they're in the right, why not make sure they go after the bad guys and NOT screw up on the BS such as this?

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                btrussell (profile), 19 Feb 2011 @ 9:51am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

                They are going to have to. What is child porn? Breastfeeding?

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 8:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: Ludicrous

          Why can't you be in favor of actually putting criminals in jail and not warning them before hand it was always been that way in America but unfortunately it changed somehow.

          Now America want to censor its population.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2011 @ 2:47pm

      Re: Ludicrous

      The point isn't that Iran or China needs this to continue censorship.

      It's that the US is losing its own standing to speak out against censorship.

      The more of a hypocrite you show yourself to be, the less the rest of the world will take you seriously. You want to lose your credibility, by all means, commit the same violations that you're bad mouthing others for. Don't be surprised when other respectable nations start ignoring you though.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws.org (profile), 19 Feb 2011 @ 3:05am

      Re: Ludicrous

      And where exactly did Mike say the US needs no laws at all? Right, he didn't so why would you write such crap?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2011 @ 6:26pm

    Since so many trolls derailed the point of this article, I think it bears repeating:

    A Chinese firewall creator approved of he United States of America's censorship, and said it was just like theirs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    okwhen (profile), 19 Feb 2011 @ 9:44pm

    Freedom is an illusion

    Marc, I agree and freedom is an mythical illusion in the majority of all countries. For every freedom one thinks they have, I contest their are many laws against it or ways to infringe on it. In the USA where I live, this is a few of them. Indians, we have signed countless of treaties with them and yet the USA maintain higher rights over their sovereign nations. If anyone meaning an individual have ever directly confronted a large corporation then you know the legal fees are well beyond your capacity. The same is true with our legal system. The law and people consider someone agrees to accept a plea bargain as guilty and in many cases it is based on a monetary decision.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.