The business of Censorship. Golden Shield Project, but not only …

Pierluigi Paganini November 19, 2011

“If you open the window for fresh air,  you have to expect some flies to blow in” this is the Deng Xiaoping’s phrase, which summarizes the essence of the “Golden Shield Project” also Known as the “Great Firewall of China”. The project is related to the development of the most efficient system of censorship and surveillance in the world of the People’sRepublic of China.

The project was started in 1998 and officially began in 2003 driven by the government to operate the control of what had become the platform for communication and dissemination most important in the country, internet (officially introduced in 1994).

Since 1997 the Ministry of Public Security started the activities to govern Internet usage with official regulations.  The key conept of the regulation are the Articles 4-6:

“Individuals are prohibited from using the Internet to: harm national security; disclose state secrets; or injure the interests of the state or society. Users are prohibited from using the Internet to create, replicate, retrieve, or transmit information that incites resistance to the PRC Constitution, laws, or administrative regulations; promotes the overthrow of the government or socialist system; undermines national unification; distorts the truth, spreads rumors, or destroys social order; or provides sexually suggestive material or encourages gambling, violence, or murder. Users are prohibited from engaging in activities that harm the security of computer information networks and from using networks or changing network resources without prior approval.”

Purpose of the project is to block content by preventing IP addresses from being routed through and consists of standard firewalls and proxy servers at the Internet gateways. Through DNS cache poisoning it’s possible to make unreachable when specific web sites are requested.

In October 2001, Greg Walton of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development published a report; he wrote:

Old style censorship is being replaced with a massive, ubiquitous architecture of surveillance: the Golden Shield. Ultimately, the aim is to integrate a gigantic online database with an all-encompassing surveillance network – incorporating speech and face recognition, closed-circuit television, smart cards, credit records, and Internet surveillance technologies

China has implemented most sophisticated Internet content-filtering that is able to effectively filters content using multiple methods of regulation and technical controls:

  • IP blocking and content filtering
  • DNS and URL filtering
  • DNS poisoning
  • Connection reset

This is a real battle in the cyber space that involve the world’s largest online population and weapon created by Chinese government is an advanced Internet censorship and surveillance system to monitor their activity.  What are the targets of censorship? We can categorize the censored contents as

  • web sites belonging to outlawed or suppressed groups
  • sites related to the hostile governments, media, or other organizations deemed as subversive
  • sites related to religious content any pornography web site or sites that encourage criminal activity
  • blogging sites

The Chinese model is a reference for all the others authoritarian regimes but not only for them. We are assisting to a challenge engaged by governments worldwide like USA that desire to legislate cyber space and impose their control to prevent any form of terrorism and dissents. We are observing a growing trend toward Internet censorship in a range of countries that are investing in the necessary technology to implement the control. The technologies are exactly the same used to secure network infrastructure from attack.

We are facing a new business opportunity, control and censorship through complex content filtering platforms. Just a few days ago I published the news on a tender held by the Soviet government on the implementation of a similar system (

On August Bloomberg reported on Bahrain’s use of surveillance software developed by Nokia  and Siemens to intercept messages and collect information on human rights activists, resulting in their arrest and torture. Countries like Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Thailand, Lybia are acquiring, or have already bought, surveillance systems and this means the that we will observe block to web activities for their citizens, in the best case, and in worst case brutal suppress of dissent. Electronic Frontier Foundation has documented the sale of surveillance equipment by several companies, including Cisco and Nortel, to China causing torture, cruel, inhuman or other degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention.

It is wrong to believe that only this government control and monitor web usage , we are living in the era of fake freedom. Do you believe to be able to surf on internet without external control? You are foolish! Western government use in differ way this powerful platform to prevent terrorism, frauds, pornography but also to monitor the sentiment of entire population and maybe to influence it.

Please analyze the transparency report produced by Google that regularly receives requests from government agencies and courts around the world to remove content from their services and hand over user data. Government Requests tool discloses the number of requests we receive from each government in six-month reporting periods with certain limitations … you will notice that behind China there are Countries like Germany and France. Surprised? Do you believe that all the request are related to piracy or similar issue?

The Google itself has been accused to implement censorship with its search engine. Some samples? In the United States, Google commonly censors search results to comply with Digital Millennium Copyright Act-related legal complaints.

On April 2008, Google refused to run ads for a UK Christian group opposed to abortion, explaining that they were non compliant to Google policy, but this meas that Google could decide what is indexable and what no based on its policies … dangerous.

Who control the controller?

I conclude with a question: << what sense does it talk about human rights when Western companies cultivate a bloody business selling this systems?>>

(Pierluigi Paganini)

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – China, Golden Shield)

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