When the Government Becomes Your It Department! - Content Filtering on a Massive Scale.
Have you ever came into the office sat down at your computer and typed into google and received and error message "This URL Has Been Blocked." Then you get the word that your IT guy or IT services provider deployed a new firewall content filtering solution that prevents you from visiting certain non business related websites and potential harmful sites.
Now you hear the word going around there is now an acceptable use company policy to meet the new network security demands that sparked from the latest global ransomware attack called named PETYA. Now, could you imagine regulatory guidelines or company acceptable use policy being extended to the government, controlling what you can and cannot view on the internet? It is hard for me too, luckily I am still able to research this using a Proxy Server to bypass my companies firewall, sshhhhh. Most of my life I’ve lived under a veil of oblivion thinking everyone held the same freedoms as me. I knew somewhere in my mind that it wasn’t true, but never had thought deep enough or researched what kind of things I get to experience in my day-to-day life that others only dream of doing. One of those things happens to be a huge part of not only mine, but a majority of American’s lives: freedom of speech and press. It’s where a lot of our American pride comes from; being able to say what we want, to who we want, where we want, about what we want.
This year I’ve been paying more attention to politics and international news, and have learned of events and lifestyles in other countries that I had never given much thought to. It’s not that I didn’t know what was out there; I just never felt the need to learn about it. But I’m slowly beginning to actually enjoy the news nowadays; which makes me feel like more of an adult too! It’s even become one of the things I look forward to when I get home from work.
The Great Firewall Of China
The news is scary and sometimes troubling when you begin to realize what’s going on outside the walls of America. Of course there are unimaginable things happening in our own backyards, but nothing like having our freedom of speech restricted.
I may be caught up in my own world too often, but I never knew that China had anything called The Great Firewall of China (I knew about The Great Wall, so that’s gotta count for something, right?). Chinese citizens have freedom of speech and press, but it’s closely examined and severely restricted by the government to sway public option, grow the economy, and maintain balance.
The government has blocked pictures of Winnie the Pooh from the internet because citizens were comparing him to President Xi Jinping by posting side-by-side pictures of the two. Certain celebrities have been banned from traveling to China because they were seen either doing something or promoting something that the Communist Party of China doesn’t agree with. Artists like Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and actors such as Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt aren’t allowed to visit or perform. The censorship doesn’t stop there though; Chinese citizens don’t have access to certain websites and apps.
Websites and Apps Blocked by China
- Google (including Maps, Docs, and
- The New York Times
- Wall Street Journal
Apple has hit headlines recently after removing VPN from their app store in China to abide by their censorship laws. It’s been a big discussion because VPNs were one of the only ways the censorship could be bypassed.
Are the Chinese Blocking your website? Check below.
History of China's Censorship
China has been withholding information from citizens since 221AD with the Burning of Books, which was done to refrain citizens from questioning the dynasty’s power and acting out. In 1979 Deng Xinaoping proposed The Open Door Policy which allowed for Western knowledge and ideology of foreign trade and investment.
In 1994 the internet reached China, and everyone wanted access to it. The Communist Party has struggled to keep balance since then. Xinaoping described the government’s dilemma by saying, “If you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in.” In order to “keep the flies out,” the Golden Shield Project was initiated in 2000.
The Golden Shield Project
The Golden Shield Project, later referred to as The Great Firewall of China, was created and developed by China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS). The purpose of the Golden Shield was to filter news, information, and propaganda to sway the citizens, help the economy grow, and keep balance between everything in the meantime. The government realized that the internet is an extraordinary tool for their economy but that it also encourages new ideas and diversity which could shift the stability of the government if citizens started asking questions and acting out, like they feared in ancient times.
China originally thought the Shield would be sufficient enough as a “database-driven surveillance system” that focused on traffic at the entry way, but as the speed and expansion of the internet has increased, China’s MPS knew they needed to make changes. Therefore they created The Great Firewall which took a different approach at swatting the flies. Instead of focusing on generalized traffic at the beginning of the network, it focused on surveying individual users at the edge of the network.
The Great Firewall
Strategies Used by The Great Firewall to Censor Information
- Content filtering
- Resetting connections
- Search word filtering
- Bandwidth throttling
- Blocking access to IP addresses
- Blocking VPNs
- Analyzing websites to block them completely or black them out partially
The Great Firewall is the main tool used by the government to accomplish internet censorship. It’s known as, “the largest, most extensive, and most advanced internet censorship regime in the world.”
Not only is the internet censored, but also media on televised programs, blogs, newspapers, magazines and more, basically only
leaving them with fake news. China’s censorship guidelines have continued to grow stronger since Xi Jinping (the one who looks like Winnie the Pooh) became
President in 2013. After coming to power, he presented new restrictions for published media stating they can only publish things that align with the Communist Party’s “thoughts, politics, and actions.” Xi Jinping’s ideas coincide with the ideas of ancient China in that the citizens should be limited to the information they’re exposed to in order for the economy and government to remain balanced. Based on international events and trending topics, and how the party wants to propagate their citizens, censorship guidelines are updated weekly.
This all seems far-fetched and I find it hard to believe after living my whole life with such a different experience of “freedom of speech and press.” Since writing and editing this article, I’ve looked at things on the internet with a different perspective. I can’t imagine not being able to say everything I want on Facebook, Snapchat, or Twitter, or coming home from work and watching filtered news. I don’t think some people I know would even be able to cope with not being able to rant about politics everyday on Facebook (no offense Kevin).
Content Filtering, Good or Bad?
The concept of content filtering is not always a bad thing though. Many countries have followed in China’s footsteps and adopted their ideology. Sure, it can still be viewed as a human rights issue, I’m not discrediting that argument at all, but if we bring it down to a smaller scale, its benefits would have a high approval rating.
Many employers and educators use content filtering to restrict access to sites that would risk the security of the network, or decline focus and productivity. It’s statistically proven that employers/educators who use content filtering for their organization have a higher rate of productivity and work ethic. For more information on our content filtering solution please visit our services page. Also, it helps prevent end users from visiting certain websites that might contain an unwanted virus or malware putting your business at a stand still. Could you imagine if your IT services provider told you that your data was held for ransome?
China's Firewall is an extreme example of how comprehensive a content filtering solution can be. However, on a smaller scale, firewalls with content filtering enabled is a great way to increase productivity any business. Our Managed IT Services solution is an all-inclusive package that comes with a managed firewall and other network security best practices. There is the reason why we received multiple Awards in 2018 for providing world class managed IT services. Visit our About CTG page for more information on our Award winning it services.
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