How China Controls the Internet

How China Controls the Internet

A big thanks to Dashlane for making this exploration
possible. Keep your online accounts and passwords secure
with and get ten percent off your first year of Premium. You’re in china and you want to circumvent
the internet firewall. As you browse the web from site to site, you
constantly encounter websites the government doesn’t want you to see: YouTube, blocked. Twitter, blocked. Google, blocked. Wikipedia, blocked. Facebook, blocked. The government doesn’t want its citizens
using these sites. If they did, democracy would be just around
the corner. A quick google search for ‘Tank Man’ at
Tiananmen Square would reveal the oppression of the regime; thousands would be in the streets
protesting the government to demand their human rights. But for now, the population of China is trapped
behind an impenetrable firewall of internet censorship and spying. And like with the physical wall of china in
days of old, the great firewall of china is almost impossible to get around. But wait. There’s already a commenter who’s posted
below, ‘I’m watching this on YouTube in China lol XD’. And as it turns out, my portrayal of internet
use in China -prevalent in Western media – is kind of wrong. To access YouTube, Twitter, Facebook- any
blocked site in China, one need only pay a few dollars a month for a VPN, a Virtual Private
Network, which can hide your IP address and location, and, done. Government censors evaded. Read about any banned topic. Follow me on Twitter @williamcfox and send
me Chinese government-banned words to your heart’s content. Please don’t do that. So why do we all have this image in our minds
of China’s internet as censored and controlled by some Big Brother type figure just waiting
to throw you in prison for googling ‘democracy’? What is the Great Firewall of China if you
can just hop it like a ‘great chinese fence’? The answer leads us to a place perhaps more
insidious. How do you control the internet without giving
the impression to the average citizen that you’re doing so? The Tiananmen Square protests weren’t just
a political awakening for the student protesters; it was an awakening for the Communist Party
of China, which since the death of Chairman Mao had been implementing changes into Chinese
society some saw as opening a pandora’s box of civil unrest. During Mao’s Cultural Revolution of the
1960’s, he and his allies within the Communist Party possesed near full control of the media. The existing Propaganda Department was shut
down and replaced with something more sympathetic to Mao’s policies (1,37). Newspaper, radio, and bulletin boards were
used to broadcast the messages of the party, mobilizing thousands to wave Mao’s book
of quotations and reeducate so-called ‘reactionary elements’ of the party (2,138). Even fine arts like opera and film were meant
to reinforce the presence of the state in citizen’s private lives (1,38). But after Mao’s death in 1976, new Chinese
leadership began a process of reforms, ‘opening up’ China without getting rid of the Communist
Party (2,150). De-Maoization, as it was called, included
a slow move towards a market economy, some private ownership of farms, and critical to
our story, limited commercialization of the media (3,113). As a means of legitimizing central party control,
media investigations of local governments were allowed. The 80’s saw a reformed Central Propaganda
Department, which oversaw a freer exchange of ideas in society (1,40). But there was disagreement within the party
between those who thought economic reforms went too far and wanted homogenous public
opinion, and those who wanted the economy slowly liberalized, and some free expression
allowed. The only thing these two corners of the party
could agree on was that loud outbursts of dissent needed to be put down (4). And that is exactly what happened when student
protests in Tiananmen Square in April of 1989 spread to other Chinese cities. The world was watching when the protests were
violently suppressed. For hardliners inside the party, it was evidence
that the government had been too soft, that the laxness on speech over the years since
Mao’s death was damaging their cause (4). A suppression of the media followed. But it must be said this suppression never
reached anywhere near the level as during the Cultural Revolution, and focused a lot
of energy on opinion influencers- an attempt to stop community action by stopping the people
who organize it (3,117). Like a tea kettle, the government learned
to maintain control it needed to find some form of a middle ground between unforgiving
censorship of all political dissent, and complete openness, lest society boil over. This would prove a valuable lesson when revolutionary
technology would arrive just a few years later. In the early 90’s, economic growth remained
the top priority of the Chinese Communist Party. And so it was logical when the internet came
to China in 1994- that this driver of the economic future would be embraced by the government
and spread across the country. 15 years later, in 2009, over a quarter of
Chinese citizens used the internet. Today, it’s over 800 million people, close
to 60% of the country (6). That’s more than double the entire US population. But the world wide web came to China with
strings attached. The central party immediately issued regulations
on the new technology. Such regulation included the ominous and expansive
detail that the internet couldn’t be used to harm the “security and interests of the
state,” (5,81). And so, between 1994 and now, a massive state
apparatus for control of the internet emerged. The original operation for controlling the
internet was through the Ministry of Public Security and was called the ‘Golden Shield
Project’, but it’s better known today as ‘The Great Firewall of China’(7). The Party primarily controls the internet
through site blocking, topic filtering, rearranging search results, mass surveillance of web traffic,
and self-censorship imposed on private companies. First and foremost, the Chinese government
simply blocks websites. We’ve already gone through some of them:
Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, Wikipedia. Part of the reason is that these sites won’t
self-censor content. Well, Google might be caving on that, but
that’s a topic for another time. Another reason for blocking sites is because
for each of the examples I mentioned, a domestic Chinese copycat site is available- Baidu for
search, Weibo for friends, Taobao for shopping, or Youku for video. And as domestic sites, each of these alternatives
will better serve the government’s interest and the Chinese Economy at-large. For the second method of control, the Party
filters words and topics of conversation. For the average Chinese citizen scrolling
through their feed on Weibo, equivalent to Twitter, posts they make or comments they
leave may be automatically filtered for review. Discussing the June 4th events at Tiananmen
or notable activists associated with them will likely be filtered. Discussing the American government-funded
media organization Voice of America, filtered (8). After constitutional changes allowing Xi Jinping
to stay in office without term limits, words and phrases like “Emperor”, “Control”,
“1984”, “Animal Farm”, and “Brave New World” were banned. And yes, any comparisons between Xi and Winnie
the Pooh were banned too (9;10). The actual leg work for reviewing filtered
posts is done by millions of online censors- at least 2 million, according to official
sources (11). Some of these are government workers, but
a lot of work is done by private firms, which are obliged to hire censors as part of establishing
themselves in the Chinese market (12). Depending on size, each website hires up to
1,000 censors to review posts, enforce Party mandates on newly banned words, and often,
to simply browse for suspicious material. But again we encounter a grey area here, because
while the government is fairly strict on certain terms and topics, generally speaking, dissent
is allowed on the Chinese internet. You can complain about the government, even
in an aggressive fashion. What you can’t do is try to mobilize your
community to action based on those complaints. A fascinating research article which I’ve
cited in the description, conducted a large-scale experiment to study this phenomenon (13). They found: “Chinese people can write the
most vitriolic blog posts about even the top Chinese leaders without fear of censorship,
but if they write in support of or opposition to an ongoing protest—or even about a rally
in favor of a popular policy or leader—they will be censored.” It seems part of the lesson learned after
Tiananmen Square- the lesson about finding a middle ground to maintain control, was to
let people voice opinions, but not to let them congregate. So why let people sound off at all? Well, another aspect of internet control in
China is mass surveillance. A lot of this surveillance is aimed at influencers
and thought leaders like journalists and writers, but by law, the browsing activity of all internet
users is gathered by internet service providers and passed along to the government (3,122). And this can naturally mean suppression of
dissidents with a crowd behind them, but it also means in a twisted way that the government
can better know what its population wants, and even use concentrated complaints about
officials to make staffing decisions in local offices (13). But I don’t want to mince words here. ‘Whataboutisms’ on America aside, in my
opinion, this is dystopian stuff. The researchers I mentioned before called
the Great Firewall, “the largest selective suppression of human communication in the
recorded history of any country,” (13). And the suppression seems to be intensifying. In 2013, Xi Jinping spearheaded a new committee
called the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission to oversee and guide the government bureaucracy
managing the internet. And naturally he made himself chairman (3,121;14). Along with eliminating term limits in 2018,
this move has placed Xi in position to mold China’s internet for the foreseeable future
(15). Crackdowns on VPNs have been widely reported
in the media, including the imprisonment of a software developer, accused of operating
a VPN to circumvent government blocks (16). But despite the crackdown, use of VPNs continues
to be widespread. As we mentioned before, with a VPN, internet
users can simply hop over the Firewall to access banned sites. Part of the reason this is still somewhat
tolerated is business related. Technology companies rely on VPNs in order
to access things like GitHub, and the continued growth of the Chinese economy demands open
access the World Wide Web, not just a ‘China Wide Web’. The government knows this, and is therefore
hamstrung from completely eliminating VPN use, at least for now. And the Communist Party isn’t in a huge
rush. That’s because they’ve learned another,
more insidious lesson about the nature of information exchange. In her book ‘Censored: Distraction and Diversion
Inside China’s Great Firewall’, Margaret E. Roberts describes three methods the Party
uses to control the internet. The first is fear. This is when the government uses punishment
or threats of punishment to stop certain stories or comments from being posted. These tactics, like the repression in Maoist
area, are immediately effective, but come with drawbacks. People are more likely to negatively respond
to strongman efforts to censor them, and will actively seek out information if they sense
that the government is sensitive about it being seen. So outright suppression is usually reserved
for leaders, protesters, or pesky journalists. More commonly seen are two other tactics,
what Roberts calls flooding and friction. Flooding, refers to efforts of the government
to drown out critical thought in a sea of pro government messages, or sometimes just
general confusion. News embarrassing to the regime is subject
to a deluge of confusing and contradictory pro government articles and comments. The hope is that the average citizen won’t
take the time to figure it all out, and just assume the waters are too muddied to know
the truth. Westerners will recognize these tactics from
their use in Russia’s ongoing cyber warfare efforts on US social media sites like Twitter
and Facebook. Since 2004, a so-called ‘50 cent party’
has operated in China. It’s a group of students paid per post on
behalf of the government (17). The goal of these efforts is not to convince
everyone, but rather to frustrate people, make them give up trying to find the right
answer in an ocean of contradiction. This dynamic is also critical for the third
and most unsettling tactic: friction. Roberts defines friction as, “increasing
the cost, either in time or money, of access or spread of information.” In other words, rather than simply banning
a website with unflattering information about the Communist Party, just make it a little
slower to load. Rather than arresting the organizers of a
protest, just make the messenger app WeChat lag in the areas you expect a gathering. Ban some websites like Twitter and Wikipedia
with the full knowledge that some will jump the Firewall with a VPN, but most won’t. These methods rely on a darker part of human
nature: our impatience. The weight of evidence shows that when it
comes to internet content, people simply won’t wait. Look at the example of Google in 2010. During a disagreement with the Chinese government,
Google starting refusing to manipulate search results as instructed. As a result, the government directed ISPs
to reject a quarter of Google’s traffic. To be clear, the instructions weren’t to
reject all traffic to Google, just some. Nonetheless, Chinese users simply stopped
using Google. Usage numbers crashed over three years- their
market share in China went from around 40% to under 2%. The mere sight of a loading bar had driven
consumers to domestic chinese search engines. Google was formally banned three years later,
but it was already inconsequential. In this way, impatience can serve the interest
of the state. Sure, you say, these tactics work on some,
but dedicated, politically engaged citizens will make the effort to circumvent the censor,
wait for the page to load, call their friend when messenger is down to ask if the protest
was rescheduled. But the trick is that the average citizen
won’t. They’ll just use the government-approved
sites, hit the back button if a link loads slow, or stay home rather than try to find
a demonstration. The average citizen won’t notice if 9 of
the top 10 search results for Tiananmen square have disappeared or been moved to page 4;
they’ll just click the first result on page one like everyone does. The government doesn’t just hope, it knows
a significant portion of people with busy lives and limited time will just give up,
or even more likely, fail to notice the manipulation at all. If you’re flipping through the dictionary,
and no word appears between disseminule and dissepiment, is it because a government censor
made it so? What word were you looking for again? When people don’t feel the weight of the
government censorship, they don’t act. As internet use skyrockets, as more and more
Chinese citizens are spending their days on smartphones, the government is playing a huge
role in how that internet is laid out. Entertainment to the top, dissent to the bottom. By using subtle manipulation over heavy-handedness,
they’ll weave reality for over a billion people. With the world’s internet becoming ever
more divided, it’s easy to sit back and relax about our own. China’s problems are china’s But is our
situation really so simple? With spying, security breaches, deep fakes,
neutrality rules, internet algorithms messing with our emotions, –juggling 100 unique 15
character passwords AND upper case, lower case, and ‘don’t use your real name in
the password!’ or ‘don’t use your birthday in the password because then you’ll definitely
get hacked’ AND…– The internet can be a lot. But I’ve got a tool that’s helping with
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100 Replies to “How China Controls the Internet”

  1. Chinese government obviously fear the rise of their population because they wouldn't stand a chance, they fear unavoidable swift to democracy.

    Be strong Chinese brothers and sisters, stand strong against this oppression.

  2. The US also controls the Internet. You go to a library and there are certain pages you can't access. On your phone if you type certain things you will be monitored.

    China has the right to govern itself how it pleases. Like we're better. China has good things too. Why focus on everything bad China has?

    How else is a country supposed to counter planned terrorist attacks or solve criminal cases? People have to be watched. We're like children. If nobody watches over, we'll kill each other. And with impunity come more crimes.

    Every country has ways of controlling and repressing their population (and this is good), so stop portraying the US as the good guy and China as the bad guy. That dichotomy doesn't make any sense to an intelligent person.

    All countries do it to a greater or lesser extent. Stop demonizing China for something everybody is doing.


  3. The west is much better at internet censorship than China. It is much more subtle. And therefore doesn’t rise as many eyebrows.

  4. The Difference between GW and GFW is the former builds a wall around China that isolate the country from rest of the world, but the latter build a wall around computer servers located in US that blocks those US utilities from rest of the cyber world. As a developing country in both economy and citizen intelligence, people like pure paper, so easy to be ignited by premeditated and funded matches, GFW try to avoid chaos since both the governor and people are not mature enough to handle such mess. I believe it will be removed the day when our people have enough wisdom to keep calm and rational in front of conspires, lies and politics. Things are already on that way, that’s why VPN or proxy services are so easy to get and not blocked, they are not so widely spread also because people not want to spend extra money for a replaceable service with language barrier.

  5. China still clings to its failing traditions of its empire and like Roman Empire it too will fall some day it's just a matter of when….

  6. I'm not sure China is the only country with these problems. The 3 ways to censor are very well spelled out and the 2nd one is easy for other entities to use regardless of nationality. Just look at the US Media and see that tactic being used.

  7. Many PRC are still ignorant thanks to their government. They think all white people speak fluent English. What joke.

  8. I emigrated in 2002 to the US. I am very happy that I left China and I am proud to call myself an American. Blocking websites like Wikipedia is something I cannot understand.

  9. Really great video! Easy and interesting to listen to, I definitely learned something and it was the right amount of information. Keep it up 👍

  10. Chinese out!!! dirty, noisy, rude commi ethnic!!! Japanese support human rights and their independence of muslim in 新疆 and Tibetan people!!! Spying, stealing, copying disgusting 支那人!!! 滅共!!! 死ね!!!

  11. There are a lot of young people who are using the internet nowadays. The youth generation are naive and they have no idea, but they are not the stuff that is stupid. The door-close policy is now a thing that is worthless( or useless) on the internet. Especially in such a high development society today. It only interrupts thinking, controls ideas, then history happens in the same way. You'll understand the history if you read the brief history which happened at the end of the Qing Dynasty of China. Today, it is a world that is connecting, we'll be lonely if lacking communication with each other. Internet is a tool, a tool to communicate with each other, a tool to share good ideas. It is not a tool which controls everything. Well, I am not a bad guy, I just show my views right here, and I hope everything will be OK with China, instead of going worse.

  12. If the West Media can stop provoking anti China propagandas then we don't need the great firewall. But I guess it will never happen. Anyway, VPN is free and is not illegal to use in China so no problem. China will practice democracy in the future, but definitely not the Western democracy. I don't think a developing country should practice democracy.

  13. 那麼多人說用VPN就好了。 @[email protected] 到底有沒有看這個影片??難怪你們都用baidu,Google都被封閉。I like Chinese culture and places in China but jfc, don’t be so accepting that you need a vpn in the first place.

  14. I'm a student in China and I've spent lots of money and time on VPN… I used to use SSR but it had been blocked so I'm using SSTap now.

  15. China just realized that what you need to do, to suppres dissent, is give people just enough wealth that most of them won't see their situation as desperate, and just enough freedom, that they won't realize their lacks.

  16. As someone thats in china this is a really really accurate depiction of the tactics here. Deleting of posts on forums is also commen but the flooding of comments Is super super commen. Its scary how Many people take the comments as fact or as Truth and in turn are played by this system. Its also scary to see china try uses theae tactics on the west to try make them come as more positive in the eye of the public. I really hope websites will figure away to get rid of this flooding tactic of fake and biased information and propoganda.

  17. Here’s the truth. Most young people knows how to obtain a VPN, usually a free one, thanks to the huge popularity of instagram and mobile vpn apps. And it’s not that Chinese don’t know about Tiananmen Square. Most people know what it is but the government is controlling the narratives and the facts so people have a certain view on these events, such as, “nothing is more important than a stable society.” Or “foreign forces are behind this to overthrow Chinese government”. So people in China is both scared and indifferent towards these events. You may even find most of them are cold when talking about these things.

    The fear is spreading here quickly in the last few years and it’s easy to get a visit from the police if you, lets say, just share photos of the protest on social network. I see people get jailed for talking about Tiananmen event on twitter. People tend to not talk about these things out of fear. They just don’t want to get in trouble or get tortured that’s all. Also its not like the world will pay attention to what’s happening here anytime soon.

  18. I just watched the whole video. Nice job! I think the example of google is pretty good and I share the same thoughts as you. The government is actually actively slowing down all foreign websites just to make people less interested in using them, including apple services in China, as the same method has been used on google ever since 2009. They make the site load slower and slower and make it unable to connect randomly and most people just give up using them.

  19. I quit using Quora after it started answering all questions in Chinese propaganda. Well, not really all, but the ones about China. I complained in the comment section and was told my complaint broke there little rules. I guess the rules were that I shouldn't say Chinese government lies were lies.

  20. This video is really misleading people because the videos about China used in this video is really not about recently.

  21. 没办法,主流媒体在西方人手里,其他国家想发出声音都难。既然好好说话没人愿听,俄罗斯人干脆大规模组织互联网造谣,弄得谁说话都没人信。中国人温和点,拿棉花塞住耳朵,你不让我说话我也懒得听你的,何况你几乎天天都在骂我。

  22. Think about a peaceful family. If there is a neighbor who taunts, insults you everyday with every single way they can think of. Would you block your kid's ear from hearing those lies and propaganda? Or you rather let them attack you in front of your kids? Mind your own business, neighbor!!

  23. Mao is a controversial lead of China. He has good sense in military but made a lot of mistakes when he was ruling China. I personally don't like him. His influence on Chinese people has become very minimal since 1984 and almost no one really cares him after 2000. This video is still trying to picture a imaginary China with Mao's government of over half century ago. Why doesn't it mention slavery history in United States?

  24. China has its own internet product…providing enough entertainment content,for social,shopping,post interesing video,not every chinese are interested in politics,they don't care.

  25. VPNs is a scam that works well!

    Computer: Are you human?
    Computer: Doesn't care has complete access to you ISP and you are under surveillance 24/7.

  26. its interesting to see the tank man footage….where the tank actively tried to get around that rogue, and as Chinese, I never get to see the footage of this in China. If China is not communist, it would probably not be an issue

  27. I will now post this on YouKu for the people to see.
    Edit: forgive me for forgetting this, but do I have ur permission to? I will credit you and your channel.

  28. Millions of Chinese traveling abroad every year. They see the western world very clearly. The censorship was to block the lies from west for the not so smart population of China, which was totally supported by the Chinese people. The average Chinese people know the world much better than an average westerner. All you need to do is to talk to people randomly on streets of China. That will the moment you realize that you’ve been brainwashed by the evil western media for your life. Think about it: how many foreign students you see from China? Do you think they don’t talk to their friends and family? Most Chinese students are very disappointed to see the real west, so they choose to return back to China after graduation. Some think the western democracy is a joke, as many westerners do. When they return to China, these people become the strongest CCP supporters. That’s the reality those western media never wanted to disclose.

  29. i hate china and chinese people the miggy faces.but china did right things to block the american sites fb etc.

  30. 首先封锁谷歌是因为谷歌宣传中东isis恐怖主义还有色情,在谷歌用中文搜索“母子”搜出来的是色情,让谷歌整改谷歌不整改,Facebook与新疆的公交车被恐怖分子袭击有关,这些公司都约谈过但是他们不整改,迫不得已把他们跟封锁了

  31. 当时谷歌公司是自己宣布退出中国,在他没有宣布之前我们国家的政府表示系统谷歌公司留在中国为为中国提供服务,因为谷歌离开百度在中国就是垄断公司了,百度和谷歌是同年成立的,百度不是抄袭的谷歌

  32. I have no doubt that Eric Schmidt went to China to develop its internet as a beta for what Google will do here soon.

  33. It's not about censorship, it's about America's companies stealing data. America actually fought back and banned Huawei.

  34. 动态网自由门 天安門 天安门 法輪功 李洪志 Free Tibet 六四天安門事件 The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 天安門大屠殺 The Tiananmen Square Massacre 反右派鬥爭 The Anti-Rightist Struggle 大躍進政策 The Great Leap Forward 文化大革命 The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution 人權 Human Rights 民運 Democratization 自由 Freedom 獨立 Independence 多黨制 Multi-party system 台灣 臺灣 Taiwan Formosa 中華民國 Republic of China 西藏 土伯特 唐古特 Tibet 達賴喇嘛 Dalai Lama 法輪功 Falun Dafa 新疆維吾爾自治區 The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region 諾貝爾和平獎 Nobel Peace Prize 劉暁波 Liu Xiaobo 民主 言論 思想 反共 反革命 抗議 運動 騷亂 暴亂 騷擾 擾亂 抗暴 平反 維權 示威游行 李洪志 法輪大法 大法弟子 強制斷種 強制堕胎 民族淨化 人體實驗 肅清 胡耀邦 趙紫陽 魏京生 王丹 還政於民 和平演變 激流中國 北京之春 大紀元時報 九評論共産黨 獨裁 專制 壓制 統一 監視 鎮壓 迫害 侵略 掠奪 破壞 拷問 屠殺 活摘器官 誘拐 買賣人口 遊進 走私 毒品 賣淫 春畫 賭博 六合彩 天安門 天安门 法輪功 李洪志 Winnie the Pooh 劉曉波动态网自由门

  35. For who think that Chinese internet filtering system is evil and scary, my feeling is that Chinese government is acting like many Chinese parents, who cover children's eyes when there are "sensitive" scenarios on TV. This behavior might seem ridiculous, especially when the "children" are actually grown-ups. The government should realize that Chinese people are educated now, we will have the ability to tell the truth and make judgement, you don't have to filter information for us anymore. But I would consider this filtering system as a culture thing, instead of a political weapon.

  36. Is it just me or do I find it funny that people find some chinaman who looks like your typical Chinese takeout owner to be this all powerful being? I personally dont find Chicoms to be physically intimidating. Bullied a few of them in my high school days and slept with one of their sisters.

  37. Wrong. Chinese government owns youku and webo and such. They make money out of these medias. Youtube and google and such is direct competition. Its money. Its always money.

  38. using vpn and watching youtube from china..
    comment like it is a great thing..
    wake up china
    try to publish article about democracy you will dissapear with the article

  39. I hate sensitive governments so friggin much it's so annoying and dumb imagine thinking you're so amazing and great to the point where you can't let people have opinions and stand up for themselves, so disgusting.

  40. A Chinese girl I was sleeping with for a week whilst she was here with exchange students told me she can’t speak about what her government are doing in South China Sea with new military island. Told me her government told them not to speak to foreigners about China politics. They are not free people. Sad

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