Showing posts tagged ultrasurf

翻墙 (over the Great Firewallfānqiáng) literally means crossing the wall, but is commonly translated as climbing over the Great Firewell—that is evading China’s network of structural, social, and legal controls by which it regulates Internet content.

Why it is blocked: China doesn’t deny that the Internet is tightly controlled in the country—with specific websites like Facebook and Twitter blocked, "immoral" content like pornography restricted, search results filtered, and individual blog posts containing politically sensitive material deleted. In fact, China openly admits and defends its Internet regulations, which are often implemented by private companies as a form of self-censorship at the government’s behest. However, criticizing this system is not acceptable.* A number of tools allow netizens to circumvent the blocks, giving them unfettered access to the Internet. (If you want to climb inside the Great Firewall and experience life as a Chinese Internet user, you can install China Channel, a Firefox add-on.) The U.S. government has been involved with funding some of these tools, including the controversial Falun Gong-designed Ultrasurf.

According to a 2010 survey, most climbers are university students who simply want to use Google search. Other findings show that only a small share of Chinese Internet users bother to use anti-censorship tools and are mostly satisfied with the domestic offerings available to them. However, even these users are often passively involved in anti-censorship measures when they engage in practices like using coded language on social media sites to evade censors.

*Fun fact: Though references to the Great Firewall are blocked on Weibo, Fang Binxing, the vilified architect and grand designer of it, is not. He was forced to close his Weibo account after irate Internet users showered him with abuse. The vitriol for him even extended into real life, with a student throwing a shoe at him and becoming a folk hero for it.



<Quick explanations for sea cucumber, yellow, evolution, candle wax, and three-color cat and a request to please read more carefully>

Update 3/22/12: Read this Disinformation article on my concerns with people misinterpreting this site.

To those who are new to the site, please wander over to the About section to get a better sense of what this site is tracking (or better yet read this article). I am NOT uncovering words that are blocked by the Chinese government. These are words that are voluntarily self-censored by one Internet company in China. I’m a bit dismayed at the various sites which are using the words I’ve uncovered as merely punchlines to the “How crazy is China these days?” question. China is not crazy. It’s a fascinating and interesting country with flaws like any other country. 

There are usually specific reasons why a word is blocked (on this, I stress again, one site) and my goal is to provide the context for why. The generalizations that I’ve seen from people who’ve picked up this site have been scarily ignorant, and I guess I’m partly to blame for allowing my list to get so easily misinterpreted. My apologies. So as of now I’m removing my untranslated full list of blocked words (though I’ll leave up two samples which I have translated) in order to reduce the chance that someone will misinterpret my results.

Ok, on to the fun stuff. A few quick explanations for some words I’ve seen floating around:

  • Phoenix the band is not banned in China (if a Chinese person wanted to write about an American band, they’d probably just use the English word, hence, 100,000+ search results on Weibo for “Radiohead” while only 20,000+ for the Chinese name (电台司令) for the band). 火凤凰, aka, FirePhoenix is an encryption and anti-censorship software used to circumvent the Great Firewall in China, similar in a way to Ultrasurf.
  • Sea Cucumbers are not banned in China. The reason 玉足海参 is blocked is because the first two characters (玉足, literally jade foot) are some sort of reference to foot fetishism (SFW Google image search). More on foot fetishism here.
  • Evolution is not banned in China. In fact, more people believe in evolution in China than the United States. The English word “evolution” is indeed blocked on Weibo, probably not out of malice toward Darwin and his theory, but likely because the censors at Weibo messed up and meant to block “revolution” (my best guess).
    [Update 4/13/12: Bloodandtreasure notes “I think it’s probably more to do with John Foster Dulles’ concept of peaceful evolution away from Communist rule; guarding against which was offered as a justification for Tiananmen, among other things. This is still a significant part of the CPC’s outlook, though maybe not as central as it was.” Great guess, but why isn’t 和平演变 blocked? Very curious. But indeed, it is still a very significant part of the CCP’s outlook.]
  • Cande wax is not blocked in China. 滴蜡 (literally, “drip candle[wax]”) is indeed blocked, and unfortunately, Google simply translated it as candle wax. The actual intention of the censor was to block wax play, the sexual activity.
  • Cats of three colors are not indiscriminately killed in China. The term “colored cat” (any color at all) will be blocked. This is likely because it is a reference to the Deng Xiaoping saying “It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice it’s good.” I explain it more clearly (with an adorable cat pic) in this post.
  • Yellow isn’t censored in China (yes, there are yellow crayons in China; you will not go to jail if you wear a yellow shirt) but rather the Chinese characters for yellow (黄色) are blocked because it can be used to describe pornography.
  • Food allergies aren’t banned, but rather a phrase (敏感, meaning “sensitive,” ie, politically sensitive or otherwise) within the word (食物敏感) is blocked.
  • "Opening a magazine" isn’t banned, but rather it’s the characters for Open Magazine (开放杂志), a magazine known for its democratic leanings, which are being blocked.

Will return with typical blog entries in the coming days. Thanks for reading!



无界网络 (Ultrasurf / Wujie wangluo) is a free Internet censorship circumvention tool. Ultrasurf was originally designed to enable internet users in China to safely bypass China’s Golden shield, but now has as many as eleven million users worldwide.

Why it is blocked: Besides the fact that the software punches a hole through China’s noted Great Firewall, it is also a product designed by the Falun Gong and funded by the U.S. government.

Note 1: Searching for the phrase “无界网络” is not only blocked on Weibo, but it will also cause your connection to the site to break, the only such phrase discovered thus far to cause such an action (searching for blogspot.com on Baidu does something similar). A user is locked out of Weibo for several minutes before they are allowed to reconnect.

Note 2: There have been allegations that Ultrasurf is possibly malware, or at the very least exhibits behavior that appears suspicious, a claim that is difficult to dispel because the source code has not been released (in order to prevent Chinese analysis), though others vigorously defend the software. As mentioned, recently it has been funded in part by the U.S. government and the Berkman Center at Harvard lauded its performance in 2007 (2010 report).