Censor much? What to expect from the Great Firewall in 2015

chinese flagI’ve been speaking to anti-censorship organisation Greafire.org about online freedoms in China and what we’re likely to see in 2015. It makes for pretty depressing reading.

First of all, the app market will see an ever-tightening regulatory regime following new regulations passed in October, according to co-founder Percy Alpha.

“I fear that in the future, apps will be like websites, i.e you have to get a license before publishing any,” he told me by email.

Then there’s the current trend for Man in the Middle attacks as a way to monitor and block access to various online services and sites.

The Great Firewall has already tried this tactic on Google, Yahoo and iCloud to name but three. It’s the only way the authorities can see what people are up to once a site switches to HTTPS.

The smart money is apparently on more of these attacks in 2015, but increasingly focused on smaller sites so as to not arouse much media attention.

The Chinese authorities have also been going after Greatfire itself of late, proof the anti-censorship group must be doing something right.

Their mirrored sites, which allow users behind the Great Firewall view blocked content, have been a minor irritant to the authorities until now. But since last week Beijing upped the ante in two astonishing moves against the content delivery networks (CDNs) Greatfire uses.

The first resulted in EdgeCast losing all service in China – which could mean tens of thousands of sites affected. Then another swipe took out an Akamai subdomain also used by HSBC. The result? Its corporate banking services became unavailable. It just shows the lengths the Party is prepared to go to control the flow of information.

The last word goes to co-founder Charlie Smith:

“I think we will continue to see the kinds of crackdown we have seen this past year. I think that for a long time, many optimists have said, give the authorities some time, restrictions will loosen up and information will flow more freely. If anything, the exact opposite is happening – I’m not sure why people seem to make comments otherwise.

 If anything, I think the authorities will take censorship too far in 2015. They will push the Chinese over the limit of what they are willing to tolerate.”

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