Friday, February 13, 2009

Tapping on the Great Firewall

In a what is probably the first quantitative study of the internet censorship in China, Rebecca MacKinnon, an Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong, conducted extensive tests on various blog hosting services in China. Her team created accounts in these sites and posted articles with sensitive keywords over an eight-month period last year. Out of 108 valid tests conducted, they found some services consored close to half of them while others either did not care or was not competent enough to do so:

Details of their experiment and other breakdowns of data can be read in their report here. The author states:
Our tests yielded some interesting answers: First, censorship levels across 15 different BSPs varied even more than expected. Second, a great deal of politically sensitive material survives in the Chinese blogosphere, and chances for survival can likely be improved with knowledge and strategy. Third, censorship methods vary greatly from company to company, implying that companies do have at least some ability to make strategic choices. These choices are not only about how to balance relationships with government and users, but also about the extent to which BSPs value user rights and interests.

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