Beijing has recently added a new weapon to its arsenal of surveillance technologies, a system it believes to be a modern marvel: the Golden Shield. It took eight years and $700 million to build, and its mission is to "purify" the Internet — an apparently urgent task. "Whether we can cope with the Internet is a matter that affects the development of socialist culture, the security of information, and the stability of the state," President Hu Jintao said in January.And if they don't know how, that article provides tips.
The Golden Shield — the latest addition to what is widely referred to as the Great Firewall of China — was supposed to monitor, filter, and block sensitive online content. But only a year after completion, it already looks doomed to fail. True, surveillance remains widespread, and outspoken dissidents are punished harshly. But my experience as a correspondent in China for seven years suggests that the country's stranglehold on the communications of its citizens is slipping: Bloggers and other Web sources are rapidly supplanting Communist-controlled news outlets. Cyberprotests have managed to bring about an important constitutional change. And ordinary Chinese citizens can circumvent the Great Firewall and evade other forms of police observation with surprising ease. If they know how.
— The Great Firewall: China's Misguided — and Futile — Attempt to Control What Happens Online, By Oliver August, WIRED MAGAZINE: ISSUE 15.11, 10.23.07 | 12:00 AM
Sure, the Great Firewall is for literal censorship and societal control. But we've already seen that AT&T has censored music videos for political content. And users may consider other forms of information limiting, such as Comcast and Cox stifling P2P communications, as censorship.
For other examples, look at what's happening with the iPhone. It comes locked to AT&T's network, but within weeks of its release, methods to unlock it were found and distributed. In Europe it probably won't be allowed to be sold locked. Or look at what happened to Sony when it sold CDs with rootkits, violating its customers security and privacy.
John Gilmore is still right:
"The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."Users don't like censorship. They will work around it. They will vote with their pocketbooks for ISPs that don't do it. Some of them will probably even attack the ISPs that do it, if not through the Internet, then certainly through the press, as we've already seen happen.
If the world's largest country, with an authoritarian government with more than half a century of experience controling its people can't control access to the Internet, mere commercial ISPs might as well not try. Trying constitutes a business and possibly a security risk to the ISPs that do so.
Seen on BoingBoing.