China Ramps Up Censorship as it Hosts World Internet Conference

China will take down its firewall in just one city for three days while it hosts the World Internet Conference.

Cheryl Kemp

November 20, 2014

3 Min Read
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This article originally appeared at The WHIR

China is taking down its firewall in just one city for three days while it hosts the World Internet Conference. Unfortunately, this is temporary, and comes at a time when China seems to otherwise be increasing censorship.

On Tuesday, the Guardian reported that Chinese Internet censorship watchdog was being targeted and may be the reason that Verizon Edgecast is now blocked.

On Monday, Verizon wrote in a blog post that it is being targeted by China. “We have been hearing from our CDN and Monitoring partners throughout the industry and our own customers that more sites, CDNs and networks are being filtered or blocked by the Great Firewall of China,” Verizon said the blog post. “This week we’ve seen the filtering escalate with an increasing number of popular web properties impacted and even one of our many domains being partially blocked…with no rhyme or reason as to why.”

To access sites that would otherwise be unavailable due to censorship, used Edgecast to host “mirror sites” that redirect users. “This was a deliberate attack on the websites that we have mirrored,” Charlie Smith, the pseudonym of a co-founder, told the Guardian via email.

With 630 million Internet users and growing, mobile internet subscriptions and mobile ecommerce in the APAC region, China is hardly an area service providers can ignore. Comments made at the conference by Chinese regulators seem to support the notion that censorship may actually increase as they strive to increase business opportunities on the Internet (such as the success of Alibaba). The Wall Street Journal reported that “Chinese Internet regulators and executives are using as a platform to assert ascendancy of Internet service that is carefully filtered, highly advanced and hugely profitable.”

The firewall was also lifted earlier this month for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Internet access during the conferences allows access to sites such as Facebook and Twitter which are normally blocked.

The irony of having a world Internet conference in a country that censors it is not lost on observers. “Surely, officials must recognize that it would be absurd for something called the World Internet Conference to have online content restrictions imposed by one country,” Duncan Clark, chairman of BDA China, a Beijing-based consultant to technology companies said to Bloomberg. “China wants to establish a ‘great power’ relationship with the US on Internet governance, and Beijing will be increasingly vocal in attempting to shape global development.”

For a country that wants to be involved in Internet governance, it has done a lot to disparage it’s image besides censorship. China is suspected in several recent hacks at the US State Department, the United States Postal Service, and banking institutions. However, Beijing did just make three arrests in the recent WireLurker malware attacks.

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