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How self-censor Tiananmen

How censor Tiananmen
Originally uploaded by IsaacMao
By using blindsearch, we can easily find how is a natural-born self-censor even to it's US-based users. If you search 天安门(Tiananmen in Chinese), the different results set pops up than Yahoo and Google. It's not the difference of order and page rank, but totally removal of those links about Tiananmen massacre. Some twitter users in China argued that it could be an conspiracy of Microsoft and China authority to exchange priority enforcing MS software piracy punishment by China government.

For Google, it's smarter that they keep the full index for US-based users, so it's always possible to get the real result from Although did self-censor some of the results, it's good for people to compare and study the difference. However, it's very strange to Microsoft, the Redmond-based business, do something stupid to give handles to any challengers from its home land. And it apparently eclipse itself on its business value. Another word, it shows people just a subset of the knowledge around the world.

I hope GNI can keep watch on this case and push Microsoft to explain that.

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Great Firewall v.s. Social Media

image It's a very long history for China to deploy censorship system( I think the legacy came from it's ever regimes since Qinshi Huangdi, the first emperor ). So although the current communist party were ever not so agile first when Internet was introduced to this country in early stage, now seems they are more boastful on controlling it with both technical and social deployment.

On the technical part. Great Firewall (GFW in short) in China is now seen as the most complicated one around the world for it's scale, consistency and super computing power behind the infrastructure. The economic boom in this country ensures investment of  the system. It came from people and used toward people. So besides of domain blocking, IP blocking and http keyword reset, the government also tried DNS hijacking sometimes to test the tolerance from communities. Many web site patterns(like,, etc.) are totally inaccessible here.

Along with the technical screwing, China authority also well borrowed the methodologies from their mature ruling on old media to control the Internet hierarchically . Just in the past six years, they have release over 10 regulations to curb people's right of publishing. E.g. the real name registration of blog give people many pressure to publish their free ideas. Also they monitor people's traffic to punish those free speakers to frighten others. They sent over thousands of net police to force businesses to do self-censorship to co-hunt the mouse in the racing game(like guiding each web site to remove 'malicious' content and report in a daily manner by setting up instant messenger groups). You may also have heard that many International businesses,  including Yahoo, Microsoft and Google,  "have to" comply to the local hidden rules. The problem became more complicated with such compromises. And that's reason I wrote open letter to Google founders in 2007.

But things always how double-sides. The tighter the censoring is, the more enemies it generated in this country. With the most recent crackdowns on Internet content with the beautified excuse of “anti-vulgarity”, we see more and more online protest including many creative cursing like the famous “alpacas”. The escalated censorship never faces such big challenges from the booming content in web 2.0 age. The new flat network of content sharing dramatically changed the paradigm of free speech.  Each time the authority add new censorship rules, the blogosphere will not only outcry loudly to the whole world but also find new ways to bypass it before next wave of reactions from censorship.  With the shifting of readership to more social media space, the public awareness of censorship was raised the same time. I guess there are over 10% percent of Internet users now fully understand the wall comparing less than 2% two years ago from a survey in Chinese Blogger Conference. Then there comes stronger will for circumvention. Many users in China can easily setup a dynamic proxy, using Tor, or setting VPN or SSH tunnel to get across the system. 10% can become revolutionary, isn’t it?

But we need more time to realize revolution. Blogging and Micro-blogging plays very important role to spread the meme not only about circumvention tools  but also the censored content itself. As there’re already a 40M blogger population in China, the same time emerged a lot of creative ideas over anti-censorship in the past few years. While some prominent bloggers continuously promote the circumvention technologies, some other bloggers started to collaborate on legal actions to sue the ISPs cooperating with censorship system.  It also raises the hope to disrupt the whole system with totally different strategy. I'm seeing the headache from China authority because of the challenges from any corners. The horizontal collaboration also distributes the risks of being targeted by the government.

So i believe anti-censorship is not simple a combat in one country but a global war. Social media shows the power of global connectivity without competency.   For example, Psiphon could have better architecture than Tor, but i'm still trying to find some better ways with more convergences with social enhancement. We should apply a whole new horizontal model rather than top-down broadcasting of a single solution. China case can be a good sample because of both the complexity of censorship against variety of solutions. Based on our experiences, designing social-media-based advocacy programs and technologies would be much more cost-effective strategy in such nanny countries.

Today, I categorized the circumvention strategy into 3 layers, the connectivity, technology and fabric. The physical layer is important because of connectivity, so sometimes we need FON like project to maximize the possibilities of connections. I believe more entrepreneurs will find new business ideas to enlarge this layer for any incentives.

Above connectivity, Tor/VPN/Psiphon like stuffs provide tunnels to enable people to get across the firewall for any individual. Sometimes they are powerful because any censorship will be invalid theoretically. However, till today, I didn't see any technologies can fit for all circumvention requirement. The technical redundancy let people fed up, the same time introducing more technologies.

So there's the 3rd layer, Social Fabric,  is emerging since 2007 by the co-computing of people networks and machines to spread information. Friendfeed, Twitter, Google Readers, etc. are playing as building blocks of this layer, forming the real many-to-many fabric like super-dense pipeline system to reach best result.  As there are tougher crackdowns in China this year, we can see how RSS and twitter meme spread even faster . That's the possibility we can assert Social Media is the future weapon to disrupt censorship. 

Btw, was reported hitting the wall timely in China since yesterday in the period of annual Congress. And once again twittersphere kept best watching by  over such a case which leads to a further step closer to freedom.

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"Censorship by Chinese Blog-hosting Companies", by Rebecca Mackinnon

Finally, Rebecca released her research works on self-censorship severities of those blog service providers in China. She was ever afraid when is right time to share the research to public. But Sharism works eventually when a best meme appeared, ha.

Not surprisingly, there’s already a Chinese edition of Rebecca’s blog post in two days from community. The censorship system is really complicated in China, however, the social media mouse is gaining lead in the race.

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Micropipeline as unblockable infrastructure

As more and more people are now on various social applications(over 10 types of such Social Software), Micro-pipeline is also emerging to show how information can flow over different kinds of social application from people to people in a more efficient way than traditional media.  We can predict that "Micropipeline" as a new concept will be studied more in the coming years to see how this infrastructure can be applied to form a larger scale of social fabric to make the world more flat and equalized.

For different kinds of social application, we can now link them easily by importing/exporting their RSS/Atom feeds. In this way, they can be connected like a pipeline system(Do you still remember the classic fun game "Pipeline"?).  Meme with XML format can flow over different pipes to reach different users eventually . There are different kinds of pipeline building blocks in the system including pipes, Tee joints("T"), and elbow joints, etc. Since there are more and more such type of components can be chosen by users, the system becomes more complex than a traditional one-to-many system(like the urban waterworks). The many-to-many relationship between those building blocks can generate non-linear chain effect that maybe possible to amplify little voices into big bang. It's the new type of media, "Social Media".


I'm making an illustration on "Social Media" big picture  by putting some typical "Micropipeline" applications on one map to show how information could flow from one person to mass population by routing those pipelines and possibly generate impact. Of course, the value of the original meme should be recognized along the path.  Traditional media like "Reuters" is no more than a super node on such a big map. The picture is not finished yet, but I would love to share some draft works to get your comments to improve it.

Someday in near future, I think the connection between different pipeline application won't be just limited to RSS. They can eventually "talk" to each other in more flexible and semantic way.  Some new kinds of authentication methodologies like OpenID could be applied in such scenario to ensure that information are authentic enough. And I'm sure XML-based Microformats will play key roles in future picture.

Micropipeline will be more important to some totalitarian countries like China to confront it's censorship system("Great Firewall", or GFW in short). Those seems-redundant building blocks(like Google Reader v.s. Bloglines) just more helpful to build fault tolerant media pipelines to serve people in such countries.  E.g. It's found that were blocked two weeks ago by GFW in China:

As feared, we've been blocked in China again.

Soup user kunshou has posted some new suggestions on how to circumvent the block (in Chinese). Should these fail, Tor remains your best bet.

This is an unsatisfactory state of affairs for our Chinese users – but as much as we'd like to, we can't just keep changing our IP address every day.Sorry! :(   ---[via  Censorship evades Soup, has stronger kung-fu]

Bloggers got very angry(Chinese) on such blockage with curses all the time. But they are now becoming smarter to build more complex personal pipelines to avoid of single point failure.  They switched to as the alternative solution to burn their social feeds as life stream.  And their subscribers can response as well to keep their information pipes flowing at normal level.  The same trick applys to Yahoo Pipes! when people found Feedburner was blocked in China half year ago.  If it's a mouse and cat game, the mouse seems faster and smarter now.

For the draft illustration shown above. I'm actually using Zooomr as the picture link here instead of Flickr since the later one has been blocked in China as well. However, I believe they can't block every picture sharing site around the world to kill themsevlves. So I think it's a great hack that we Chinese can survive in such a Social Media age.  We can even change the country in a longer extent for sure.

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What's the social media means to professional journalism?

During the talk over "Social Media" as Luncheon Addresss(Slide) at the conference of "Changing Dynamics in the Asia Pacific: Power Politics, Economic Might, Media Challenges", I also presented the situation of the "lonely family" of Hu Jia.

There were bloggers tried to send powder milk the small girl last week, however, it's still impossible to break the cordon to enter and conduct. They didn't give up though. More tools will be expected to be used to make things smarter. You can find Hujia's house in a vivid way from Google Maps(same using Google Earth). More bloggers are called to join the action to update the map time by time. And furtherly the leaks can be found anyway to save the baby.

I hope the audience really understand Sharism in such a context because it's really relevant to each of us. And most importantly, I've got a lot information from the local bloggers meetup last night and some insights from other speakers in different panels.

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Great Wall, unchanged

Just finished a fabulous "Museum" day in London. We started at morning to meet the speakers of the evening debated with a rough topic on "The New China: What does the First Emperor's legacy mean in a globalised world?". We met some really interesting guys to exchange some interesting ideas(including a recent eco-protestor who put mask on a warrior's face, which could be seen as an emergency if it's in China), actually I just feel the debate would be more like a panel discussion without flame wars.

The Terracotta Warrior exhibition in The British Museum

We were taken by Jane Portal, curator of this over-half-year-long exhibition of "The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army", to make a short touring. I was exited that it's the first time I see clearly real Terracotta Warrior. Its simply amazing not only because of the whole exhibition format navigated in a creative logic, but also the works themselves. Actually, its very hard to imagine how people keep the craft skills in such a media-less age and mass produce so many warriors like modern factory. As a trained engineer, I was too much impressed by the process of engineering. Unfortunately, those techniques wasn't respected and reserved to keep China a innovative country in the later centuries.

Our debate, as one of the parallel program with the exhibition, attracted about 300 people. My blogger friend Cathy Ma was lucky to get a seat because of my speaker advantage. It's very hard talk for the speakers including Me. Jon Snow from BBC Channel 4 moderated the panel after Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum) gave a warm-up speech. Then four speakers including Jonathan Fenby (auhtor a the book Jiang Kai-shi) , Sun Shuyun (documentary producer ), Steve Tsang, and me started our talks over "legacy" based on the understanding from different background. I mentioned the "Great Firewall" behind China Internet users is just the legacy mindset of "control" by communist rulers. And the most wise choice for the ruling party is to remove it to prove their over-propagandaed harmonious society and peaceful rising. The collective intelligence from counting Internet users won't just wait for the non-progressive democratic regime if they don't like to change their mindset. Unfortunately, we didn't see such change even after the passing 17th Party Congress.

China Ambassador, Ms. Fu Ying, also joined tonight's event. She commented that the best way to understand legacy is to forget it. It's somewhat a quite safe comment for her role. I was told she is very nice and smart lady though Steve remind me to be
cautious after I return China. I noted but somewhat feel easy with that. It's not the first time I speak publicly about Great Firewall in China. It's truth that everyone should knows and change it together. I'm happy to see there are more and more Chinese Internet users(especially those millions of bloggers) started to talk about it explicitly and try to find constructive solutions to persuade government to rethink about this stupid mindset. In a modern globalized China, we don't need such legacy, instead, we need inherit the blood of creativity in Terracotta Warriors.

I enjoyed the talks from other speakers too. They are all China experts rather
insightful than me about the history of China. I didn't see the flame wars in the debate though. Some friends told me after the debate that I'm somewhat too optimistic to the future of China. I think I should be because the paradigm of the whole world is changing from 1.0(top-down) to 2.0(bottom-up) even the Great Wall mindset unchanged today in China.

The Guardian, cooperator of the debate, will have podcasts published online soon to get the full script and audio of the debate. Stay tuned. (update: The guardian podcasting has been published here and Jonathan's long review of the debate, "Continuity and change")

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WEF meets GFW

Many foreigners attending World Economy Forum(Dalian) were cheering with Primeir Wen's remarks on "peaceful development". I don't want to argue it's right or wrong to many new comers to China and such platitudes speech. Because the "harmonioius society" theory from ruling party seems only best worked on censorship till now. Anyone attended WEF Dalian experienced actuall censorship when they want to access Flickr, Wordpress and BBC News, etc. Also some peopel found that Twitter is not stable in these days. They may not even know the recent mass crackdowns around the country to those IDCs and thousands of web site just because a new five year ruling party congress is coming.

Internet censorship system ever had a beautiful nick name GFW(Great Firewall) and now has a new Chinese kidding name Kongfu Net(Gong Fu Wang in Pinyin). The problem is now becoming more and more serious in China. But don't just tell the reason in a simple way(for Party Congress, etc.). Actually, it actually reveals the indepth social problems(food safte underneath water for years. "The more of ropes they throw out, the faster they hang themselves", another WEF blogger attendee said to me yesterday. I was shocked by the words, but totally believe it's true.

Interestingly, I found different behaviors of GFW at different places in Dalian. In WEF conference hall. I can never access Twitter site. However, it's possible in Hotel. And they share the same list of other banned sites(including Feedburner, Wikipedia Chinese, Wordpress, Flickr picture server, etc.) It could be caused by the uncompleted deployment to the distributed GFW blacklist to different ISPs and areas. The GFW blacklist is guessed a centralized database but synchorized to distributed gateway routers to different ISPs in different provinces. It's not so sure yet whether local authorities can access their respective gateway to edit the blacklist because we alwasy get report from users in different locations. But basically, we can be sure today that the centralized system is there.

Anyway, it's very interesting topic that GFW meets WEF. Its the real world of how China meets the world. How totalitarian meets open society. And how reality meets future. The interaction of China and world may face more and more such mindset conflictions in the coming decade, but we can believe the universal value of humanity can eventually win the future.

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Digital Nomads Plan just released a new project called "Digital Nomads",a non-profit service supporting Chinese people(but not limited) to set up their independent blogs. The project, also supported by Social Brain Foundation, is especially designed for people's free speech and will serve those grassroots journalists as the topmost mission. "Digital Nomads" the name came from my speech in Accton Taiwan by the invitation of one of my best friends Joy Tang.

The service is actually inherited from early ideas of "Adopt a Chinese Blog" program by cnblog. As more and more blog hosting services in China started to cooperate with government censorship, many independant voices were actually blocked and slowed. Though there are some brave people started to fight with those "self-censorship"(from businesses) in relative weak legal context, seems the most direct way is to support bloggers to become real independant from those censorships in technical ways. So there comes the project idea and right volunteers teaming up.

As it's a project supported by SBF, Digital Nomads project won't be a for-profit one. Instead, it only requires the supportees to pay their doman name and basic hosting fees to cover the cost. The service will be more than that with the voluteers efforts to promote the blogs and incorporate advanced technologies to help bloggers empowered(like OpenID, Microformat, etc.). Also the team will help bloggers to well use media creation tools to make their blogs richer in content. We would like to see how the project develops itself to demonstrate how important free speech is and how powerful the distributed grassroots voice sphere would be.

If you would like to help promote the project in other areas(not limited to Chinese speaker people), I'd like to transfer the message to the team and try any possibilities to support too.

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Skype login problem

Many Chinese Skypers reported login problem with Skype this afternoon from Twitter sphere. Though not all people met the problem, we are sure that there are some problems with Skype logon services. "Flypig" told that "(I found) only 870,000 online users when I tried with proxy". Carol, my friend in Taiwan, also can't login Skype so I think it's not the problem of China censorship(though its always possible, hehe). After searching blogosphere, it seems that the VoIP service is under global turbulence. Hopefully, it can be found an recovered soon.


  1. From Skype Heartbeat site, we found such message:

    Some of you may be having problems logging in to Skype. Our engineering team has determined that it’s a software issue and hopes to have this resolved quickly. Meanwhile, you can simply leave your Skype client running and as soon as the issue is resolved, you will be logged in. We apologize for the inconvenience.

  2. From "The Resigister":

    Skype's peer-to-peer technology appears to be to blame for a large-scale network outage, with users around the world experiencing connection problems.

    The scale of the SNAFU isn't known, but users are reporting problems connecting to the Skype network, or being disconnected within moments of connecting.

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Wikimania conference, Taipei

I will be in Taiwan early August to attend Wikimania 2007 conference. It's the second time I will be in Wikimania(last time Aug, 2005, Frankfurt). But it's the first time I visit Taiwan. As there are still many constraints to mainland Chinese to visit Taiwan, I even don't want to try those complex processes but seeking a tricky way to make the visit. It is impossible to share the "trick" this moment before it is proved feasible(That's why it's tricky, ;D )

I will speak the 3rd day of this year's conference talking about "Knowledge Forming, Heredity, and Variation". I will try to illustrate how Wikipedia is evolving itself like the nature with it's own natural selection rules with gene(meme) heredity and variation process. And how knowledge can be improved in a vector adding way(not linear algebra). However, there are still many issues to limit the future development especially censorship in real world, e.g. GFW in China. Censorship strongly blasts the free creation of knowledge evolution same to the disasters in nature. Just in this week, many bloggers found that can be accessed in China though still with "keywords" filtering. Anyway, if the reopening is permanent this time(users were cheated last year for temporary unblocking), I believe there will be huge creations in zh.wikpedia space. And will take further impact to the disrupting society in China.

What's more in this global symposium? Let's meet there and create it together, in a vector adding way.

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Flickr's almost banned in China

Chinese bloggers resonated a lot today on Flickr's disability in China. They talked over Twittersphere and blogosphere with angers. Currently, the is not blocked but the image repository server( and It means the blockage is not whole domain as target, but some subdomains which may be referred most by Chinese blogosphere recently on those "sensitive" contents. Generally, June is very sensitive month because of Tian'anmen crackdown 18 years ago. And more this year, there were a protest over PX chemistry project in xiamen, as well the the passing away of vice primier, Huang Ju. All these cases caused authority in nervous and headache because of the flood of voices online. Flickr, as one of the most favorite photo sharing service, was definitely the first target of being censored because there are many photos and pictures related to above cases. Right now, people can still access flickr web site but can't see any pictures there.

But things is not simple as censorship itself. Bloggers has raised more online protests with their rages. Today, more and more people in China knows what GFW is. They expressed a new flood of online protest after finding flickr image server was blocked. Some posts has directly blamed the Communist Party, with disapointment and even cursing it's crash. We may see more flood of reactions over this case. It's could be even a turning point that pushing the authority to change their Internet policies, either tougher or looser(impossible). It depends on the depth of emergent power shifting. Who knows. What we have realized that the date CPC crash will be very close after GFW crash(someday near 2015? only guess and wish) becasues they are very agile indeed.

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