News24

US to break China web firewall

2011-05-11 10:39

Washington - The US plans to pump millions of dollars into new technology to break through internet censorship overseas amid a heightened crackdown on dissent in China, officials said on Tuesday.

State Department officials said they would give $19m to efforts to evade internet controls in China, Iran and other authoritarian states which block online access to politically sensitive material.

Michael Posner, the assistant secretary of state in charge of human rights, said funding would support cutting-edge technology that acts as a "slingshot" - identifying material that countries are censoring and throwing it back at them.

"We're responding with new tools. This is a cat-and-mouse game. We're trying to stay one step ahead of the cat," Posner said.

The announcement came shortly after the US and China wrapped up wide-ranging annual talks in which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed exasperation at Beijing's intensifying clampdown on domestic critics.

Funding

China routinely blocks sites that present non-official viewpoints on topics such as Tibet's exiled leader the Dalai Lama, the banned Falungong spiritual movement and the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

More recently, Chinese authorities blocked search results for "Hillary Clinton" after she gave a speech championing internet freedom and for "Jasmine", an allusion to pro-democracy uprisings sweeping the Arab world.

"In effect, we're going to be redirecting information back in that governments have initially blocked," Posner said.

"This can be done through e-mail or posting it on blogs or RSS feeds or websites that the government hasn't figured out how to block," he said.

The funding comes out of $30m which the US Congress allocated in the current fiscal year for internet freedom.

The failure until now to spend the money led lawmakers to accuse the State Department of kowtowing to China. A recent Senate committee report called for another government body to be put in charge of the funds.

Falungong supporters developed the so-called Global Internet Freedom Consortium, software to evade China's internet firewall that was so effective that Iranians sought it out during 2009 protests against the clerical regime.

Effective

Posner said that the State Department would not identify the recipients of funding due partly to "reasons of security".

Another US official who requested anonymity said that the State Department received requests for funding totalling $180m and that it chose which ones appeared most effective.

The funding grants still need the green light from Congress, but the official voiced hope that it would happen quickly.

Clothilde Le Coz, Washington director of the media rights group Reporters Without Borders, welcomed the news and its timing, saying that China is jailing 77 people due to their internet activities.

"It is good news to know that more netizens will certainly be helped in getting their word out," she said.

But she said that circumvention tools for the internet were a "Band-Aid" as the larger issue was ensuring freedom of expression.

In a speech in February, Clinton called the internet "the public space of the 21st century" and pledged US efforts to ensure that it develops in a way that allows freedom of expression and association.

However, she also criticised activist site WikiLeaks for publishing secret US cables. She accused WikiLeaks of "theft" and said the issue did not contradict the US commitment to an open internet.

Comments
  • Grunk - 2011-05-11 10:52

    Here we go again - the US poking it's nose in other nation's affairs thinking that they are God's chosen. When will they understand that they are the biggest trouble-mongers and greatest threat to civilisation in this present day world?

      Steve Wonderboy - 2011-05-11 17:34

      Governments all over the world forget that although they are voted into power, they still remain civil servants. Chinese people have the right to know what is going on around the world, not just that their government is feeding them. Knowledge is power. We need to take back the power and keep it in our own hands.

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:10

      While you're reading these words, look at your computer screen, look at your key board, look at your Internet connection, look at the car in your driveway, look at your cell phone, look at your telephone, look at the lightbulbs in your house, and realize you would be without all of these things that yiu rely on so heavily but for the very US that you continually undermine with stupid and ignorant comments. Try learning a bit about the oppression of people by the thugs that are running Iran and the oppression of the still over-centralized and controlling Chinese government. Try a little bit to move beyond your superficial and ultimately incorrect view of the world.

      juanontheweb - 2011-05-17 14:11

      Of coarse the evil will feed you with all that is nice and feel good, its the best way to reel you in to its evil, You are so right Grunk

  • Daemos1 - 2011-05-11 10:53

    Don't f**k with China dude, just don't do it

      Aren - 2011-05-11 11:24

      Fuck the Chinese.

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:11

      Wham you say China, do you mean the Chinese government or the Chinese people?

  • PMG - 2011-05-11 11:46

    Would you prefer an American way of life or Chinese - I for one would hate my ten year old child to work a 14 hour day in a sweat shop for a dollar.The only reason the Chinese are economically strong is because they suppress their people - the average Chinese product is crap,but cheap,thanks to slave labour.No Cosatu in China.

      Grunk - 2011-05-11 12:01

      And I would hate my sons and daughters being continually whipped off to partake in wars based on lies or getting involved in killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Why don't you revisit your history books and see how many wars have been started and invasions undertaken by this most iniquitous of nations. (When you reach the 100 mark, you might start to see what I mean).

      dajoma - 2011-05-11 12:17

      PMG - and how many American companies are in China with their factories staffed by these chinese, paying them a dollar a day?! A big reason america is economically weak is because they have exported all their manufacturing jobs to China to make higher profits for their muti-nationals off the backs of cheap Chinese labour! So how much does america really care about human rights in China?

      AmandaWhereTo - 2011-05-11 12:18

      Difference is Grunk, in the U.S your kids will have a choice. And If you look at history as a whole, you will realize that the U.S was formed a few hundred years ago. China has been causing war or fighting in wars for thousands of years. History spans a long time, not just the parts you like. Your statements are emotive and have no basis in solid fact. Please post me a link or give me some indication where I can find information on these hundreds of wars the U.S have engaged in?

      Grunk - 2011-05-11 13:43

      Amanda - Use this link to start your investigation - starting at the beginning of the Time line (ie the Mayflower etc). Forget the bias of the entries - concentrate on the info provided and do your own substantiation through other sources. It opened my eyes to a horrifying relook at what the US is really all about. http://mtwsfh.blogspot.com/2009/03/1947-thoughtcrime-in-america-nazi.html

      AmandaWhereTo - 2011-05-11 14:30

      Yes I've seen many sites like this. But the point I'm making is still unanswered. I don't count even close to 100 wars. The time line there is from 1947 to the present. China has a timeline from a few thousand BC. In no way am I saying that the States are perfect, or that they haven't done anything wrong. Also all of the material there has no supporting evidence in anyway. Also, bear in mind that there are many sites like this but showing the opposite side of the story. Have you investigated Chinese atrocities? I'm bringing us back on topic here as it's the U.S trying to stop the Chinese from practicing suppression of information, exactly what that site of yours accuses the states of ALLEGEDLY doing, if so indirectly. The difference here is we KNOW the Chinese sensor material TODAY that people need and have a right to know about. I don't really care about what the U.S MAY have done in unrelated circumstances to the article. Most of that stuff is about Nazi Germany and is frankly hearsay.

      Grunk - 2011-05-11 14:53

      Amanda - before commenting why don't you read what I said about the starting at the beginning of the time line (ie 1785 or suchlike)and doing your own substantiation of what you read. People who are spoonfed don't learn. It took me 6 months of investigative analysis to come to the conclusions that I have made.

      AmandaWhereTo - 2011-05-11 15:44

      I didn't ask to be spoon-fed, nor do I need to be spoon fed. What I'm suggesting is that most of that conspiracy stuff is hearsay, and has nothing to do with the U.S wanting to break down the Chinese firewall which sensors information the government doesn't want the population to see. Also be mindful that 6 months isn't remotely enough time to research such a topic, even if done full time. I've written a post grad thesis at UCT which dealt with a rather simple topic that's new in my field (a few decades at best), and that needed at least a years full time research and was absolutely soul destroying the amount of care you need to take in your analysis and evidence gathering. You have managed to uncover and study a nations hard-to-get secrets, spanning over a few centuries in 6 months and drawn a solid conclusion all by yourself? As I said, I'm sure the States have done some shady things, but what you claim has precisely nothing to do with the current issue. Do you think that because the U.S has possibly had a shady past that what they say TODAY about suppression of necessary information and media freedom is wrong? That's like saying don't vote and agree with the DA because they're white, and white South African parties have a shady past.

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:12

      You're being an ignorant idiot Grunk.

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:13

      Dajoma, you're misunderstanding. Those are largely Chinese companies to whom the US has lost jobs.

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:14

      Grunk, globally.com is not a legitimate source of information. No wonder you're so confused and ignorant.

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:14

      That should be blogspot.com

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:15

      Six months! Funny. No wonder. Spend a little longer buddy.

  • dajoma - 2011-05-11 12:02

    Just who does America think they are!? They have no right to try to control or over ride the policies of other sovereign countries! Or trying to control the Internet! Americans stand and cheer at ground zero at the murder of Bin Laden and then wonder why so much of the rest of the world are against them and why so many 'Terrorist' groups are gunning for them. First its the Muslim world and now China ..... America is making the world a very unsafe place and only fueling animosity and distrust! Yankee ... Go Home!

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:16

      It's the other way around. China and Iran are controlling their populations. You're upside down. Just turn the picture around.

  • drowninja - 2011-05-11 12:04

    Well done US

  • stephen scott - 2011-05-11 12:14

    the intire free world should be involved in breaking firewalls, in these slave labour countries

  • AmandaWhereTo - 2011-05-11 12:24

    Sometimes people lose track of what's important. Is letting other countries do as they please in their own borders more important than upholding a moral and ethical code for the sake of general human rights? The same code that these people say should allow other countries freedom to operate how they like, yet by doing this those countries break those rules of good governance and morally humane conduct. "See, fellow humans are suffering. But it's OK because I have the moral high-ground by not interfering." Question is, where is the line? I gotta say I side with the U.S here, but only just. All they re doing is promoting freedom of information and press outside their own borders. They aren't launching nukes.

      Steve Wonderboy - 2011-05-11 17:42

      Similar to the South African stance on diplomacy with other countries. They are a "sovereign country" so we cannot interfere. Bull!! I say right is right and wrong is wrong. You may have been voted into power once upon a time, but if you're abusing your power it is up to the rest of the world to stand up and be counted.

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:19

      I'm glad about the conclusion you've reached, but they're doing a lot more, and have done a lot more, than you realize.

  • Gavin - 2011-05-11 12:53

    It's time the world weaned itself off its addiction to all things american. They caused the credit crisis that pretty much bankrupted the world. Linking the global economies to the greenback is the worst thing we've ever done. Long live the Euro !! If we can put one american on the moon - why can't we put them all there ??

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:17

      How many of these confused people are out there?!

      slg - 2011-05-12 17:38

      Do you like your computer? Your car? How about your telephone? Your cell phone? The fact that you have light in your house? And that you can travel in an airplane to far away places? All American. Give these up, then we'll see how you feel?

  • Grunk - 2011-05-11 16:55

    Amanda, You seem to have a bit of intelligence - why don't you put it to some use and see how Mr Gordon Gray (see Wikipedia)- of whom I am sure that 99,9999% of people have never even heard of - starts fitting in to the overall picture - I'll give you another clue - also look into members of his family as well as some of the CIA and FBI history in like areas. Conspiracy theories or joining the dots? You work it out and see if you can figure out the how, why and whither of the situation and how it may affect you and your progeny.

      Steve Wonderboy - 2011-05-11 17:48

      People are way too easily sidetracked from what is important. Whether you do an act with an anterior motive or only with good intent, if the result is good why complain? They are fighting for freedom of information, something I can support wholeheartedly. Once a country has absolute control over the movement of knowledge they can feed their populace any nonsense they want.

      bmpdragon - 2011-05-11 23:38

      Grunk — while I agree that America has it's more than fair share of hypocrisy — the point that Amanda and many others here are trying to make is quite simple: the liberty of choice offered by American society and law is greater than that of the present Chinese milieu. You also seem to forget, Grunk, that the Communist Party of China (the only allowed government) has, in the last hundred years, perpetrated some of the greatest crimes against humanity: under Chairman Mao's rule, at least a million Chinese people were killed and millions were tortured, imprisoned and displaced. The massacre at Tiananmen Square is another example. All other similar governments from that era (e.g. Russia and the Soviet Block, Franco's Spain) have fallen, yet the Chinese Communist government continues to hang onto power by whatever means possible. I would be naive to believe that the USA is a paragon of moral virtue (Wikileaks anyone?), but I believe that anyone who claims that America and China are on equal footing is plain foolish. I would bet my last bottom dollar that you would prefer your children to live in America: the draft is practically dead, people aren't kidnapped in the middle of the day by their government, you can read any article you choose on Wikipedia, there are laws protecting your children's basic human rights... and I can go on ad nauseum.

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:17

      You're following the wrong trail fool!

  • BernieK - 2011-05-11 22:11

    There are people that are very easily influenced by all this conspiracy nonsense. Stop being so gullible. The Chinese government does not allow much freedom, so what is wrong when America tries to breakdown a firewall?

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:18

      Well put.

  • Jakob - 2011-05-12 00:16

    babylon trying so hard to make the whole world fall into their abominations porn hollygaywood - no rest 4 the wicked!

      slg - 2011-05-12 03:18

      Jakob, time to get off the ganja

  • mbuyiseni molokomme - 2011-05-12 06:37

    Well to clear it all come to China and try to question or challenge the government and you'll get the earliest flight out or if you are a citizen get place under house arrest and a bonus of 24 hours police guard and if u try to jog get introduced to some police brutality so,whatever your political view be here it doesn't exist,even most of the people here know nothing about politics its the way of life and as for the rights some don't even know if they have any,for instances when you leave the province you were born in to another you have to ask permission or be arrested so well its one of the safest places in the world but no human rights and thats a fact !!!

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