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Internet Filtering in China in 2004-2005: A Country Study

58 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2005  

Derek E. Bambauer

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Ronald J. Deibert

University of Toronto - Munk Centre for International Studies

John G. Palfrey Jr.

Harvard Law School

Rafal Rohozinski

University of Cambridge

Nart Villeneuve

University of Toronto - Munk School of Global Affairs

Jonathan L. Zittrain

Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government; Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Berkman Center for Internet & Society; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: April 15, 2005

Abstract

China's Internet filtering regime is the most sophisticated effort of its kind in the world. Compared to similar efforts in other states, China's filtering regime is pervasive, sophisticated, and effective. It comprises multiple levels of legal regulation and technical control. It involves numerous state agencies and thousands of public and private personnel. It censors content transmitted through multiple methods, including Web pages, Web logs, on-line discussion forums, university bulletin board systems, and e-mail messages. Our testing found efforts to prevent access to a wide range of sensitive materials, from pornography to religious material to political dissent. We sought to determine the degree to which China filters sites on topics that the Chinese government finds sensitive, and found that the state does so extensively. Chinese citizens seeking access to Web sites containing content related to Taiwanese and Tibetan independence, Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama, the Tiananmen Square incident, opposition political parties, or a variety of anti-Communist movements will frequently find themselves blocked. Contrary to anecdote, we found that most major American media sites, such as CNN, MSNBC, and ABC, are generally available in China (though the BBC remains blocked). Moreover, most sites we tested in our global list's human rights and anonymizer categories are accessible as well. While it is difficult to describe this widespread filtering with precision, our research documents a system that imposes strong controls on its citizens' ability to view and to publish Internet content. This report was produced by the OpenNet Initiative, a partnership among the Advanced Network Research Group, Cambridge Security Programme at Cambridge University, the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

Keywords: Internet web filtering, government, China, ONI points of control

JEL Classification: K1, K19, O3, P26, Z00

Suggested Citation

Bambauer, Derek E. and Deibert, Ronald J. and Palfrey, John G. and Rohozinski, Rafal and Villeneuve, Nart and Zittrain, Jonathan L., Internet Filtering in China in 2004-2005: A Country Study (April 15, 2005). Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School Research Publication No. 2005-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=706681 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.706681

Derek E. Bambauer

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

Ronald J. Deibert

University of Toronto - Munk Centre for International Studies ( email )

Department of Statistical Sciences
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S 3G8
Canada

John G. Palfrey Jr.

Harvard Law School ( email )

1545 Massachusetts Avenue
Areeda Hall 511
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Rafal Rohozinski

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

Nart Villeneuve

University of Toronto - Munk School of Global Affairs ( email )

Toronto, Ontario
Canada

Jonathan Zittrain (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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