China Blocks Google for 25th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square

tiananmen-square-1989-tankIn preparation for the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre (aka. the June 4th Incident), Chinese authorities decided to begin blocking Google. It’s believed that the blockade is tied to this week’s 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre where the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrators. Each year, the Chinese government censors the web in an effort to limit protests against the thwarted uprising.

Aside from Google, several internet services were blocked or censored in advance, including social networks and other web communication tools. Though the Chinese government has not yet confirmed this, countless Chinese users have discovered Google’s services to be inaccessible since the last week of May. In addition, a report from GreatFire.org claimed that the government appeared to have begun targeting Google Inc’s main search engine and Gmail since at least the last week of May, making them inaccessible to many users in China.

chinese_hackerThe report added that the last time it monitored such a block was in 2012, when it only lasted 12 hours. At is states:

It is not clear that the block is a temporary measure around the anniversary or a permanent block. But because the block has lasted for four days, it’s more likely that Google will be severely disrupted and barely usable from now on.

Asked about the disruptions, a Google spokesman said: “We’ve checked extensively and there’s nothing wrong on our end.” And Google’s own transparency report, which shows details about its global traffic, showed lower levels of activity from China starting from about Friday, which could indicate a significant amount of disruption. Other major social media sites – such as Twitter and Facebook and Google’s own Youtube – are already blocked in the country.

A Google logo is seen at the entrance to the company's offices in TorontoOf course, this should come as no surprise, given the way this anniversary is received by Chinese officials. For the ruling Communist Party, the 1989 demonstrations that clogged Tiananmen Square in Beijing and spread to other cities remain taboo, particularly on their 25th anniversary. When June rolls around each year and the Tiananmen Square Massacre is commemorated around the world, including in Hong Kong, China’s ruling party typically conducts a web crackdown.

It’s not uncommon for Chinese censors to block certain comments from being made even on China-based company services, like Weibo, China’s own version of Twitter. And China also applies pressure to search engines like Baidu in their country in order to ensure that censorship filters are in place. And as with previous years, the run-up to the anniversary has been marked by detentions, increased security in Beijing and tighter controls on the Internet.

tiananmen_square_vigilThis year, the detainees included prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and Chinese-born Australian artist Guo Jian, a former Chinese soldier who last week gave an interview to the Financial Times about the crackdown. And as usual, the Chinese government made a statement in which it once again defended its decision to use military force against the pro-democracy demonstrators who gathered in the Square twenty-five years ago.

The statement came from Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei during a daily news briefing, in which he said:

The Chinese government long ago reached a conclusion about the political turmoil at the end of the 1980s. In the last three decades and more of reform and opening up, China’s enormous achievements in social and economic development have received worldwide attention. The building of democracy and the rule of law have continued to be perfected. It can be said that the road to socialism with Chinese characteristics which we follow today accords with China’s national condition and the basic interests of the vast majority of China’s people, which is the aspiration of all China’s people.

tiananmen_square_vigil2On the subject of why Google was being targeted, Hong said only that the government “manages the Internet in accordance with the law”, which is consistent with the state’s position with all web-based censorship. When asked about the jailing of dissidents, Hong replied that “In China there are only law breakers — there are no so-called dissidents.” He also stressed once again that all departments of the Chinese government “consistently act in accordance with the law.”

For years now, Google has had a contentious relationship with China, which began with the company had once offering its search services to the world’s second largest economy. However, due to issues over censorship, Google decided to move its Chinese search engine to Hong Kong, effectively allowing them to operate outside the rules and regulations of the Chinese government. But as China demonstrated these past few weeks, it still has the ability to block the flow of traffic from Hong Kong into the mainland. 

tiananmen_square_vigil3It also aptly demonstrated just how much it fears the specter of Tiananmen Square, even some twenty-five years later. From clamping down on their people’s ability to learn more about the massacre, to clamping down on even the possibility of protest in advance, to continually denying any wrongdoing and suppressing information on the number of people killed, the legacy of Tiananmen Square continues to expose the blatant hypocrisy and denial of the Communist Party of China.

If history has taught us anything, it is that the fall of a dictatorship usually begins with one terrible mistake. The state of China committed that mistake a quarter of a century ago, and since then has relied on state-sanctioned economic growth in order to justify its existence. But in so doing, they’ve essentially created a Catch 22 for themselves. Continued economic growth ensures greater material wealth for more and more of its people. And a burgeoning digital-age economy means more and more access to information for its citizens.

In short, the CPC is screwed. And I for one would be happy to see them gone! Lord knows they deserve it, and the Chinese people would be better off without them, no matter what they try to insist. So on this historic anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, I invite the CPC to EAT A DICK! And to the people still living under their hypocritical rule, please know that you are not alone. Hang in there, and wait for the day when these bastards join all the other reprehensible dick-heads on the ash heap of history!

Sources: cnet.com, reuters.com, (2)

A Kinder, Gentler Internet: Youtube Algorithm Screens Comments

youtube_commentsThere’s scarcely a soul among us who hasn’t watched a video on YouTube. But have you ever stuck around long enough to read the comments section? It’s like a leper colony for the mind, a vindication for misanthropes everywhere. And after many years of being at the forefront of rudeness, racism, and generalized dumbassery, the YouTube comment section is getting a clean up.

Whereas the old system worked by placing the latest comments at the top nearest the video, regardless of their relevance or lack of redeeming content. The new system will employ a series of algorithms to determine what each viewer will find most relevant. This includes comments from your friends, from the video creator, and from “popular personalities” (i.e. celebs of one type or another).

youtube_convoBut it doesn’t stop there. Currently, since comments are displayed as they come in, making the act of following a conversation difficult at best. But from now on, the site will feature threaded conversations, which is consistent with Google policy, the site’s now owners. As for private conversations, the new platform will be powered by Google+, allowing users the option of deciding who they want their posts and videos to be visible to.

Additionally, there will be a sort of cross-posting between YouTube and Google+. If you post a YouTube video on Google+ and some one comments on it there, the comment will show up on the video over at YouTube, too. Alternatively, they could choose to have their comment only show up on YouTube, or only show up on Google+. There’s a lot more control.

googleplus-conversation

But perhaps most importantly of all, there are new filters that will be in place. As it stands, YouTube commenters enjoy total anonymity, which allows them to post racist, sexist, homophobic and vitriolic comments without fear. And while content creators can choose to allow all or no comments, or manually approve each comment, this is completely impractical for videos that garner millions of views a week.

But now, YouTube is introducing filters that will make it easier. The new filters basically allow content creators to not only be able to assign people to an Approved list or a Blocked list (which will auto-approve or auto-reject comments, respectively), they will be able to add keywords to a Blacklist. This will flag comments that contain those words and send them into a special list which can be reviewed and approved/rejected later.

ConversationPrism_2880x1800The threaded comments feature and began to be put into effect a little over a week ago. Filters were made available at the same time for channel pages only, but in the months to come they’ll become available for every individual video, giving content creators and commenters more control over the conversations they participate in. Basically, it will still be YouTube, but with some Facebook-like privacy and content filters.

And while many might deplore these new rules as an example of heavy handed “internet censorship”, there are many more who believe this change is overdue in coming. And given that the control rests with the users, who have the ability to share or be private, and to filter specific kinds of content, the basic spirit of a democratic, open forum remains.

Source: gizmodo.com