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Chinese censorship icon Jingjing.  (Source:

Jingjing and Chacha pop up when debates become heated, gently reminding users to "advance harmony."  (Source: Wired/Committee to Protect Journalists)
Surge in traffic from earthquake creates a short-lived gap in Chinese censor coverage

Freedom groups everywhere breathed a sigh of relief when, earlier this week, Chinese censors were reported to be buckling under the weight of a country eager to talk about its devastating 7.9 earthquake. Now, it appears, those groups may have been incorrect: China’s censors never went anywhere, and the country’s “Golden Shield” project appears to be back to normal.

Previous reporting on the topic revealed that Chinese news sources were “surprisingly frank” with their reporting, revealing an uncommon level of honesty for a government that, characteristically, heavily regulates the flow of negative information. Chinese bloggers were able to communicate freely in all but the most extreme of circumstances, and Chinese message boards were littered with a variety of thoughts on the earthquake, both good and bad.

While many were hoping that the censors’ visibly relaxed controls would be permanent, the Chinese government quickly rebounded to the old status quo as activity died down. Even worse; it appears that the government propaganda machine was in effect all along.

United States-based Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia program coordinator, Robert Dietz, noted that journalists “rushed to the scene,” and described a “general feeling that the government had lifted the restrictions on reporters.”

Instead, said Dietz, “the central propaganda department never stopped handing down directives, never stopped telling people how much to report.”

On the public front, Chinese netizens are gently reminded to “self-regulate” by the country’s cartoon censorship icons, Jingjing and Chacha. One example, provided to Wired’s Threat Level by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the line-drawn duo orders users to “advance harmony,” by popping up at the bottom of the user’s screen if they posted a comment considered inflammatory.

However small and short-lived it may have been, the gap in Chinese censorship coverage reveals an interesting gap in the regime’s armor: like most everything else, the “Golden Shield” project is not invincible. Chinese users have long known that they can circumvent government blacklists with proxy servers – something the government actively cracks down on, creating a game of cat and mouse – but now, apparently, they can flat-out overwhelm it too.

With the country reportedly encouraging up to 500 million of its rural citizens to migrate to urban population centers – putting each of those migrants all the closer to computers and cellphones – can internet censors keep up?

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Jingjing and Chacha
By HotdogIT on 5/25/2008 10:17:46 AM , Rating: 5
I wish US-based forums had Jingjing and Chacha. That'd be awesome.

RE: Jingjing and Chacha
By icrf on 5/25/2008 11:00:38 AM , Rating: 2
Seems like they'd make a good tongue-in-cheek T-shirt chain, too.

RE: Jingjing and Chacha
By OAKside24 on 5/25/2008 11:56:16 AM , Rating: 5
Now someone just needs to invent the Web Asshat Determination System (WADS!) so only the deserving trolls and kiddies are honored with their presence.

RE: Jingjing and Chacha
By Alexstarfire on 5/26/2008 8:02:32 AM , Rating: 2
LMAO. Now that's funny.

RE: Jingjing and Chacha
By MrTeal on 5/25/2008 3:21:07 PM , Rating: 5
Maybe MS can port them to XBox Live.

Chacha says "Stop being a douchebag"

RE: Jingjing and Chacha
By daInvincibleGama on 5/25/2008 4:24:04 PM , Rating: 5
LOL. Maybe even "Come back when you're atleast 10 years old. That's 6 years from now."

By Emily on 5/25/2008 12:27:54 PM , Rating: 2
I did not expect a permanent change as a result of recent events (as far as I know, the 'Great Firewall' was relaxed since the Olympic Torch Relay even before the earthquake).

I reckon that the Chinese government is just experimenting to see the impact of relaxing the rules and it will take years (or longer) before they even consider dismantling the project.

But I am curious about the comment about overwhelming the use of proxy servers. It's the first time I've heard of it, as far as I know, proxies still worked fine not long ago.

RE: Realistically,
By daInvincibleGama on 5/25/2008 4:28:52 PM , Rating: 2
The "overwhelming" refers to overwhelming the traffic inspection devices(that probably use DPI) that are part of the Golden Shield. Apparently, when the Chinese people became eager to talk about the disaster and went to the forums all at once, the inspection hardware could not keep up, resulting in a temporary break in censorship. Apparently, the Great Firewall is back online. This is probably the first time it has been brute-forced through though.

It's probably because the hardware picks only the amount of traffic it can scan to do the inspections on. The rest passes through.

And yeah, proxies will work fine.

I've been blocked
By Azndude51 on 5/26/2008 1:12:05 PM , Rating: 2
I'm currently visiting in China from the US. I knew that China had many websites blocked, but I haven't really encountered any blocked sites. That is until I read this article, I didn't know there was a term for the censoring, the "Great Firewall."

I decide to Google the term and clicked on the first link which was to the Wikipedia article on censorship in China. The page starts to load for a spit second, then BAM, consider myself censored. It's as if the page doesn't even exist.

RE: I've been blocked
By eion on 5/27/2008 1:54:53 AM , Rating: 2
Wikipedia has been fine for me since they unblocked it, even the 'sensitive' pages, and the "Internet Censorship in China" page just loaded without any issues. It could just be the lousy Internet access you get in China (something I suspect is not unrelated to the Great Firewall).

Coming soon to Office 2010!
By rtrski on 5/26/2008 9:02:37 PM , Rating: 2
I never thought I'd see something that scared me more than "Clippy" the helpful paperclip.

RE: Coming soon to Office 2010!
By Adonlude on 5/27/2008 8:33:05 PM , Rating: 2
I can think of an amusing nick name for this Chinese police pop up. I'll give you a hint, it rhymes with Clippy... ;-)

The WWW is free!!!
By bongsi21 on 5/26/2008 10:49:01 PM , Rating: 3
The World Wide Web was created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee for a military project. When the military decided to let go of the project. Tim Berner lee donated the technology for free to the world.

These events revolutionize our way of life.
And now the world is conspiring to control the net by using the term "piracy" and confidentiality as a means to govern and rule the internet.

Everything is utterly wrong.
If people does not create any actions...

By 325hhee on 5/27/2008 12:03:47 PM , Rating: 2
While everybody is harping on China and it's web censorship, the Freeworld isn't any better, they just rename it and call it government cover ups. Let's just take the Roswell incident, did a UFO crash? Are there really aliens? Did the govt cover it up? How is that any different than censorship, it's the same thing, you take some information and only release to the public what you want them to hear.

Though personally, I don't believe there were any aliens in Roswell, but that's not the topic of discussion. On to more recent events. The war in Iraq, were there WMDs? They were never found, or where they? Was the govt trying to cover something up? If so what was the agenda? Better yet, when our soldiers were being beheaded, should the news show the beheading? Absolutely not, it's barbaric, we do not need to see soldier's heads lopped off.

Censorship isn't the best thing in the world, but some times you just need to use judgement on what should be seen and what shouldn't. Would you let a 10 yr old watch porno? Would you want to use profanity around kids? Morally the answer should be no, but I've seen the people out there and they are no holds bar on their kids, which is why the youth in today's time are horrendous, disrespectful, lack manners, lack discipline.

I may not agree with China's internet policy, but to govern billions, some extreme measures needs to be taken sometimes. Comparing to the US with only 300 mil, this country needs a shakedown within, racism still exists, bigotry, sexism, ignorance is the biggest thing of all. No country is perfect, and no country ever will be. Democracy failed in Russia, it doesn't work for everybody. Democracy doesn't even work in the US, in some aspects, hence recession.

Mixed feeling about this.
By pugster on 5/25/08, Rating: -1
RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By Nihility on 5/25/2008 10:47:40 AM , Rating: 5
ohai propaganda machine

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By rs2 on 5/25/2008 5:28:25 PM , Rating: 5
Advance harmony.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By Jiggs1337 on 5/25/2008 10:55:06 AM , Rating: 5
Instead, why not have a government you can trust that releases statements disproving the false rumors/alarms?
Censorship imho is never the right thing.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By CSMR on 5/25/08, Rating: -1
RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By Emily on 5/25/2008 2:48:35 PM , Rating: 3
However, suspicion can increase if people find out about the censorship: they may wonder if the government trying to cover up anything.

I doubt that the Chinese government have that much more trust than the US/UK government. I reckon it is more a case that the economy in China has done very well in the past decade, and a lot of people are leading better life than they used to ago, and that matters more than knowing that there is a lot of information manipulation going on (made possible with selective censorship).

And while I am sure the Chinese government did evaluate their options, the system was probably put in place for their own benefits more than to stop false rumours.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By CSMR on 5/25/2008 3:55:54 PM , Rating: 1
Suspicion depends on the amount of censorship and when it is observed. If you do a lot of censorship, and it isn't public exactly what you're censoring, then it will not create much suspicion about particular issues.
By trust I meant that statements made by the government would be trusted more than statements made by the US, UK governments.
What I am saying is that even with quite a lot of trust, and even (hypothetical situation) if the motivation is clearing up misinformation, censorship can be an effective option.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By Spuke on 5/25/2008 7:27:38 PM , Rating: 3
Wow! I didn't realize that ANYONE believed in censorship in any form. On the other hand, I guess I shouldn't be so surprised given the types of laws that have been passed (and supported) in the recent past.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By saiga6360 on 5/26/2008 9:30:29 AM , Rating: 2
If no one believed in censorship then it wouldn't exist now would it? We all have within ourselves the belief that some people should just STFU because we do it to protect ourselves. That will never change.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By Emily on 5/25/2008 8:25:11 PM , Rating: 2
It may be effective but it comes with undesirable possible side effects [expressed in my other reply]. There is a limit to how often censorship is used before people notices it.

I believe that censorship should be reserved for sensitive materials only (i.e. something the government need to keep classified as it affect public security).

There are other means available to clear 'misinformation' without a tool can also be used to manipulate information.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By amanojaku on 5/25/2008 11:08:27 AM , Rating: 2
Some of the censorship in China is more or less necessary. There are many false rumors concerning that ammonia has seeped into the water supply caused many people to buy bottled water. Another false rumor was nuclear mater leaked from the damaged earthquake zone.

Censorship is WRONG . If misinformation is spread the only solution is to ethically discredit that information with FACTS PROVING OTHERWISE.

You could argue that military and police data are exceptions, but hiding that sort of information enables a government to have more power than its people can control. Like China, for instance. This doesn't mean the government WILL abuse its power, it's just in a better position to do so.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By CSMR on 5/25/08, Rating: 0
RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By amanojaku on 5/25/2008 3:35:08 PM , Rating: 2
Emily's post is the answer:

However, suspicion can increase if people find out about the censorship: they may wonder if the government trying to cover up anything.

By removing misinformation you make people wonder if there is something to hide if they find out. Worse, misinformation spreads amongst the uninformed just as much as the truth does. By calling out the misinformation you both eliminate it and inform the people of the truth.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By Emily on 5/25/2008 3:50:33 PM , Rating: 2
But how do you ensure that only factual 'misinformation' removed? There are many ways to can dispel straightforward misinformation but it is harder to ensure that a platform for censorship isn't misused (i.e. used for the government's benefit as opposed to the people's).

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By CSMR on 5/25/08, Rating: -1
RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By daInvincibleGama on 5/25/2008 4:22:02 PM , Rating: 2
Then where do you stop? How far is too far?

You censor the people spreading "false rumors about ammonia", and you try to make that acceptable by saying that is as far as the censorship will go.

Then, tomorrow, you censor people that accuse the govt. of corruption by saying it uses a "false premise" to create distrust of the government.

Slowly, but surely, there will be mission creep as more and more things get added into the censorship and propaganda. Next thing you know, the common man will not be able to say jack shit without approval from "all relevant government officials".

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By audiomaniaca on 5/25/2008 6:17:30 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe you don't know, but the Chinese Government has the habit of punishing corrupt politicians with death penalties. They're the first ones to make these things public.

Governments cannot censor and be corrupt at the same time. People are not dumb. Chinese are not stupid, as many might think.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By brenatevi on 5/25/2008 7:16:21 PM , Rating: 2
Governments cannot censor and be corrupt at the same time. People are not dumb. Chinese are not stupid, as many might think.
Yes, it can. Obviously you are not familiar with the Cultural Revolution. It was corrupt and it censored. If anything, censorship can make corruption worse, because officials can act without worries about being exposed for their crimes.

And are you certain that the officials that were executed were corrupt? The only source is the Chinese government, unlike in most free nations, where journalism will give you multiple sources, so for all we know, those officials might have been pro-democracy and the Chinese government was punishing them for it.

Not saying that the Chinese are stupid, but even the most intelligent person can be mislead if the information the receive is faulty.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By audiomaniaca on 5/26/2008 10:10:45 AM , Rating: 2
Not the case in China. Obviously, you're not familiar with the country.

There's corruption in Taiwan, Thailand, Korea and other neighbors, but in Mainland China that's definitely not the case.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By Xietsu on 5/26/2008 10:26:16 AM , Rating: 2
In mainland China that's not the case? So it isn't corruption to you, to censor the liberties of your people with some contrived agenda? What is corrupt is your manner of conception. What is corrupt is will of the people being subjugated to be content with the circumstance as it is. It is nothing to them but a wish, nothing they believe they even have the ability to work toward, that of freedom.

And brenatevi, to think "the most intelligent" can be misled if "the information they receive is faulty", such is to improperly gauge that of intellect. Those who are of such stature take into account the advancement of any agenda under the prudence to potentiate as though their sources were spurious.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By audiomaniaca on 5/26/2008 9:00:28 PM , Rating: 2

In short terms, corruption is something against the law. Since limiting informations or controlling them are not against the law in China, it cannot be considered corruption. The laws are very well respected in China.

The Chinese people like their government and their government work for the people, but the world outside simply cannot understand it, because they have a distorted, westernized view of what freedom means.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By pxavierperez on 5/26/2008 10:06:39 PM , Rating: 2
That's really cool. I love that reasoning.

Like saying since stealing from the people is not prohibited by law in China then there is no theft crime in China.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By Xietsu on 5/27/2008 2:07:17 AM , Rating: 2
Heh. You look to the wisdom of none but that of man's, and such is truly tried to have its limits, as you show us in such swerving senses. Corruption is to compromise one's nature of credence, and for all who would consider these contemplations, that which is credible is often that which is without contempt. It is nothing but a thing of contention, to control communities with legal litigation over activities which ought not have anything but freedom reigning as it trounces censorship with righteous confiscation.

And what liberty does confiscate is that of complacency, where cares aren't made in manners of observation that ignore how life does obligate. It is a responsibility to all who live, to be open enough in perspective to let all come to empowering as though it weren't some aside, an elective. You who think of the world in terms of segregation, Eastern, Western separation in ideals, you who believes it is no plight to be complacent under China's totalitarian thoughts on what is right, you are one needing to confront yourself with a bane that is profusely bleeding.

To ever have to feel fear (whether of anxiety or prudence) for voicing your thoughts is nothing but state-sanctioned suppression and subliminally coerced mental depression. Are you one so primal as to perceive it profitable to make a rudimental regression? Even examining your expression, that privacy and paths to personal propagation are best overridden by governmental profession, I see that, here, you are one who cares for no struggle of the senses as, in your strained sight, you strip yourself of the shame you ought have, to look at this and not understand that many are to blame.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By eion on 5/27/2008 2:18:02 AM , Rating: 2
> "The laws are very well respected in China."

By who?!

At least at the provincial and municipal levels, I would describe petty corruption (from a western standpoint - such as buying meals, entertainment or travel for government officials, for example) as being endemic in China.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By peteryang84 on 5/27/2008 10:12:42 PM , Rating: 2
I am a Chinese.
Open Government Information (or whatever the name is) law was enacted on 1st May so limiting information IS now against the law.
Your observation about the chinese government is utterly untrue at best and your blindness to the suffering of ordinary chinese people caused by abuse of power is disheartening, because I myself am a victim. My father had a piece of land in the outskirt of Beijing which has been confiscated by local party chief and sold to a developer for profit, and the local court would NOT even accept the lawsuit!
"The Chinese people like their government and their government work for the people, but the world outside simply cannot understand it, because they have a distorted, westernized view of what freedom means. "
that deserves a big STFU from me, perhaps you are one zealous fenqing troll with senseless xenophobia who never read news except from xinhua or sina and who have never stepped outside of your dirty apartment room.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By Foxbat121 on 5/27/2008 9:47:02 AM , Rating: 3
I guess we have an official Chinese government agent posting here. No corruption in China? Laws well respected?

The common sense in china:

(1) Every government officials are presume corrupted. If you pay $$, you can get your way.

(2) There is no such thing as respecting Law, the only thing respected there is money. Money can buy you everything.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By audiomaniaca on 5/27/2008 8:30:38 PM , Rating: 2
Well, we'll have to censor you.

Let's common sense with sense:

1) Some or few government officials are corrupt anywhere in the world, from Switzerland to Timbuktu (not the case in China).

2) Could you please tell where in world money cannot buy everything?

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By CSMR on 5/26/2008 8:04:50 AM , Rating: 1
My post has been censored by the democratic mob, how ironic :).

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By DASQ on 5/26/2008 11:48:55 AM , Rating: 2
It's not censorship, your post is still there, still available for viewing by anyone with internet access. It's simply in default 'closed' form because the internet has correctly deduced that anything you say is not worth reading.

It's like complaining you're being censored because your new ass-flavoured lollipops are being taken off the shelves. Your product (ideas) SUCK ASS.

You've obviously got a twisted view of 'censorship' and 'freedom'.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By rs2 on 5/25/2008 5:31:20 PM , Rating: 2
False rumors don't justify censorship. Why, if that were the case, then what would all the tabloids do?

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By pxavierperez on 5/26/2008 10:13:08 PM , Rating: 1
If there was any lax in the censorship concerning the recent quake then it was China's way to divert world attention and ease their way into the upcoming Olympic events.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home
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