Starting alter this month, Beijing will start rolling out a free public Wi-Fi network dubbed “My Beijing.” The service is being supported by three of China’s biggest telecom companies; China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. In the next few years, the government hopes to have roughly 60% of the massive city covered with Wi-Fi. As with all free things, there is a catch. Users will have to hand over their wireless numbers to connect to the network.
China's a great place to go if you want to find a company to manufacture some hardware components, but it's a little less awesome if you want to, say, blog about making those components. The country's ramped up its assault on the Internet over the past few years, jailing "immoral" citizens and shutting down websites left and right. Now, China's bragging about its heavy-handedness; the country boasts that its iron grip strangled the life out of over 1.3 million websites last year alone.
Remember Google's shouting match with China last year? It got so bad that Hillary Clinton ended up comparing the "Great Firewall of China" to the Berlin Wall, and Google threatened to pull out of the country. Now, a new lawsuit alleges that Cisco may have helped to build that wall.
It's long been known that the Chinese authorities don't take kindly to people using sites like Twitter and Facebook in the country. The possibility that people might anonymously congregate on these popular sites frightens them to such a degree that they are blocked by the so-called "Great Firewall". While traditional internet devices and services in China cannot access these and other sites, it looks like the 3G Amazon Kindle is capable of bypassing the Great Firewall.
The 3G version of the Kindle connects to Amazon's Whispernet to access web services. There appears to something about the routing, even using Chinese 3G networks, that allows the device to reach forbidden websites. The result is a thriving grey-market for the e-reader in mainland China. Amazon is not able to sell the Kindle direct to consumers.
One individual that resells Kindles in China claims to be selling over 300 devices per month. Chinese auction sites too are havens for illicit Kindle sales. The only drawback to this method is that the Kindle's web browser is not very pleasing to use, being on a slow device with an eInk screen. We'll have to wait and see if Chinese authorities find a way to block this as well.
Location-based social network Foursquare has run into the Great Firewall of China. The censors in China blocked access to the popular geosocial networking service after users began using it to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
In a blog post this morning, Google made note of a startling fact regarding censorship. By The Big G's count, out of the 100 countries they offer services in, 25 are blocking at least some part of those services. Google calls the problem of net censorship a "growing problem" and references the Open Net initiative's list of countries that censor online content.
According to Google, the increase in censorship is due to the unprecedented number of people meeting to share ideas online. This means the traditional methods of controlling a few print and television sources no longer work. The example of YouTube is used - the video sharing site sees 24 hours of new content every minute. As a result governments simply clamp down on the internet, blocking large sections of the internet that may contain content they do not approve of.
By way of examples, Google singles out China and Vietnam for political censorship. But Google points out that it complies with democratically elected governments that have specific restrictions - like a ban on pro-Nazi material in Germany and France. But Google sums it's position up as such, " We are driven by a belief that more information means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual."
Do you take Google at its word, or is this just business?
The Chinese government takes the threat of unfettered Internet access seriously. China's "Great Firewall" blocked access to reports about the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tianamen Square massacre last week. Although some users bypassed the blocks by using proxy servers, China's upped the ante: The Australianreports that China is requiring that all new PCs sold in China starting July 1st must include website blocking software developed in China.
The software's Chinese name is "Green Dam-Youth Escort". The word "green" in Chinese is used to describe web-surfing free from pornography and other illicit content.
The software was developed by Jinhui Computer System Engineering, with input from Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy. Both companies have ties to China's military and its security ministry. Jinhui says Green Dam operates similarly to software in other countries designed to let parents block access to web content inappropriate for children.
Foreign industry officials who have examined Green Dam say that personal information could be transmitted through the software and that it will be difficult for users to tell what exactly is being blocked.
Green Dam-Youth Escort can be preinstalled on systems sold in China, or be bundled with systems sold there. Although the developer states that the software contains a password-based parental bypass feature and can be uninstalled, one wonders if China will allow web access if the software is not active. Will the biggest PC vendors in the Chinese market (second only to the US market in sales last year) push back against this requirement, or will July 1st see the "Great Firewall" become even harder to crack? Join us after the jump for your chance to sound off.