how to blog anonymously

Reporters sans Frontières have just released a booklet Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents, in several languages including Chinese. Alot of it is pretty basic stuff, but there is a cool section of personal accounts, including Yan from Glutter in Hong Kong. The technical stuff gives a pretty thorough introduction, and also covers all the shortcomings of the various methods of anonymity.

Create your own blog, remain anonymous and get round censorship !

See the Handbook

Blogs get people excited. Or else they disturb and worry them. Some people distrust them. Others see them as the vanguard of a new information revolution. Because they allow and encourage ordinary people to speak up, they’re tremendous tools of freedom of expression.

Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest.

Reporters Without Borders has produced this handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles.

Many Internet experts helped produce this manual, including US journalist Dan Gillmor, Canadian specialist in Internet censorship Nart Villeneuve, US blogger Jay Rosen and other bloggers from all over the world.

The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-dissidents will be on sale in bookshops from 22 September for €10. It can also be downloaded in five languages (English, French, Chinese, Arabic and Persian) from the Reporters Without Borders website :

— reporters sans frontières

hackers reveal china’s forbidden words

Here’s why hackers are are an invaluable part of the internet. China Digital News has an amazing piece on what exactly you can’t say over the internet in China.

It is an open secret that all Chinese Internet hosting services, including wireless and instant messenger services, filter user communication through key word blocking mechanisms. But overly vague and broad Chinese internet laws and the internet police force never made the forbidden words explicit — Not until some Chinese hackers located a document within the installation package of QQ instant messaging software. The file contains over one thousand words, most of them in Chinese, which will be blocked by the service.

Owned by Tencent, QQ is China’s most popular Instant Messenger service. On a regular basis, tens of millions of users use their service. On one day, March 13 , there were more than six million users online using QQ at the same time. Because of its high traffic volume, it is technically much harder to build in the key word filtering mechanism on the server’s end. Instead, Tencent sneaked in a filtering program file in their installation package at the client end. When a client installs the QQ2003 software on their own computer desktop, a program file, called COMToolKit.dll, is automatically included. This file contains all the forbidden keywords, which will be automatically blocked when the client runs QQ. The full list is below.

Recently, some Chinese hackers located this file and released it on the Internet. The censored key words list is commonly used not just for QQ, but also for all websites, BBS and text messaging services. One Internet user did a rough breakdown of the list: About 15% of the words are sex related, the rest are all related to politics. About 20% of the words are Falungong related, including “师父” (master) and “弟子” (disciple); about 15% are names of current officials and their relatives; about 10% are words used in the liberal political discourse such as “democracy”, “freedom”, and “dictatorship”; and about 5% are related to certain nationalistic issues, such as “保钓” (defend Diaoyu Island),“中俄边界” (Sino-Russian Border) ,“卖国” (selling out the country) etc. About 15% of the forbidden words are related to anti-corruption, such as “走私”(smuggling, “公款”(public funds)etc. Other censored words include names of dissidents, writers, and intellectuals, and names of certain foreign publications.

southern metropolis daily

What happened in Guangzhou when a graphic design student got arrested by the police for not having a temporary residence visa and dies after getting the crap beaten out of him? Why did the editor and general manager of 南方都市报 Southern Metropolis Daily come off seriously second-best for publishing the story? How many other stories from the paper pissed off corrupt local stooges in the government and what does it all mean for freedom of press in China?

This is a story that’s been going on for a while, which involved the worldwide SARS freakout at its height and the machinations of provincial and city government at its worst which I always found impossible to follow until The Washington Post published this article which brings it all together.

The party is torn about this creeping expansion of media freedoms. It believes a more assertive press can help it fight corruption and improve governance, but is afraid of losing control over an institution critical to its monopoly on power. Regular skirmishing between journalists and officials who want to suppress stories that make them look bad has threatened the party’s unity. And as journalists begin to view themselves as watchdogs for the public rather than lap dogs for the party, the government’s old methods of control are weakening.

Internet – opiate of the masses

China and the internet is one of those topics which gets swung around and made to represent whatever position the writer wants to push. The Columbia Political Review’s essay manages to present an impartial overview of the internet in China devoid of hysteria or oversimplification.

The Internet has had a Jekyll and Hyde effect in China. Internet users can undoubtedly become more informed if they seek to do so, and occasionally public opinion mobilized and expressed via the Internet has influenced the Chinese government to change policies. But at the same time, the web serves as an opiate for the masses who have no interest in politics the vast majority of Chinese internet users go online to read gossip, talk to friends, and play games. The case is the same for the government. It seeks to create increasingly powerful software technology to censor the Internet, but at the same time, as freelance writer Paul Mooney reported in YaleGlobal Online, members of the National People’s Congress routinely use the Internet to gauge public opinion and to look for new ideas.

I’ve spent a few too many all-nighters playing Counter-Strike in auditorium-sized internet bars in Beijing, but I’ve also seen how artists in China have jumped on the internet. Unlike Australia, which also has a high rate of early adoption of new technology, it seems that every second artist/musician/dancer in China has a website or blog or forum, and are also very literate in using the technology in art, making for an amazing yet fragile internet culture.

[I saw this first at China Digital News]

World Press Freedom Day – not in China

Today is World Press Freedom Day, which is not a celebration, more of a remembering those killed, tortured, imprisoned, and stifled around the world, and what each loss represents for the country which persecutes them and the outside world which does nothing.

While not the worst, China has a history of oppression and crushing of dissent, and today, 1 1/2 years into the first peaceful change of power, things are as bad as ever. Today in the New York Times there is an interview with Jiao Guobiao a journalism professor at Beijing University, who unleashes a vitriolic, mocking attack on these new leaders:

The department is spiteful like the Nazis, he wrote in a recent essay. It thinks itself infallible like the pope. In the 1950’s it covered up the starvation of millions of people. Today, he charged, it lies about SARS.

“Their censorship orders are totally groundless, absolutely arbitrary, at odds with the basic standards of civilization, and as counter to scientific common sense as witches and wizardry,” he wrote in the article – which has been widely circulated by Internet in Beijing despite, not unpredictably, being banned by the Communist Party’s propaganda department.

There was a period during the change of power when many people hoped Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao were representative of a new, more enlightened government. With Jiang Zemin still holding the reins though, it appears things are moving backwards at a disturbing rate.

The most conspicuous sign of that tension is in the media. In recent years many newspapers, television stations and Web-based media have flourished in a more market-driven environment. Diversity and competition seemed to foster more open discussion of delicate topics, including corruption, legal reforms, foreign affairs, crime, business abuses and other matters that were once taboo.

But pressure to conform to political norms, which never went away, has been strongly reasserted in recent months, people in the industry say.

Propaganda officials have increased their presence inside news, culture and entertainment organizations, and have refined a system for pre-censorship that leaves less discretion in the hands of editors.

“It used to be that they would punish people who made too many mistakes,” said the editor of a leading political magazine. “Now, you don’t have the leeway to make mistakes.”

Among topics now considered off limits, the media are no longer permitted to investigate corruption without approval. That limits what many had seen as one of the few effective checks on official wrongdoing, reporters and editors said

Some people see this increased suppression of freedoms as being a reaction to the more open society that has resulted from the economic liberalisation, and that it is merely the defensive posturing of a leadership lacking in confidence. But with increasing number of issues and methods of communication being forbidden or heavily censored things look pretty grim for an open China.