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The Great Firewall of China

Anniversary of protest marked by blocking Wikipedia

The anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre has been marked this year with the blocking of the encrypted version of Wikipedia.

Until 31 May 2013 the HTTPS web address for the online encyclopaedia could be used to access the otherwise blocked online content in China. The censorship monitoring system, commonly known as The Great Firewall of China, started using port blocking to prevent access to the unencrypted version of the site which displays hundreds of articles that are censored by the Firewall.

The controversial event in China’s capital in June 1989 resulted in an unheard of amount of bloodshed for an organised protest when the hardline leaders enforced martial law on the unarmed civilians in the Square.

Internet Police State

In 1989 the protest was intended to expose deep splits in the political leadership, in 2013 the Chinese Government have a 30,000 strong Internet Police force in an effort to monitor and manipulate the online opinion away from criticising the state.

China’s ‘Internet Repression’ is considered to be more extensive than any other country in the world. Their vast amount of internet regulations not only restrict what content can be accessed but can monitor an individual’s internet usage.

China is already monitored because of its strict censorship policy by Amnesty International, who have recorded that the Republic currently has the largest number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents for crimes ranging from signing online petitions to calling for reform and an end to corruption.

Keyword censoring

The unencrypted HTTP version is now the only way to access Wikipedia and is censored using a keyword filter.

Keyword filtering is The Great Firewall’s most sophisticated method of manipulating internet use as it uses intrusion detection systems (IDS) to inspect all traffic passing through or via a router. If the traffic contains any keywords on the predefined banned words list then it is prevented from reaching its destination.

Wikipedia’s default is HTTP which could explain why it took The Great Firewall over a year to respond to the unencrypted site. The company have suggested that should Wikipedia switch their default to HTTPS then the Government in China will have to make a decision whether to block the website altogether.

Tom Glass, creative director at theEword, said: “China has the largest number of internet users but the most restrictions on what can be said and which sites can be accessed. A list which already includes Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, it looks like Wikipedia could be joining the club.”

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