US cracks China firewall
The US is going to plough millions of dollars into new technology to break through internet censorship in countries such as China and Iran.
US unveils new drive to break China internet firewall
Thursday, May 12 2011 by Steve Swallow
Search engine optimisation providers and other internet consultants could have much greater access to China as a result of a new drive by US officials to crack the country’s firewall.
The US State Department has earmarked $19 million (£11.7 million) to fund new technology to break through internet censorship overseas. China is just one of several regimes where online access to politically sensitive sites is blocked. Others, including Iran, could be targeted by the move. The money is part of a $30 million (£18.5 million) pot to support internet freedom.
Assistant secretary of state Michael Posner, whose remit includes human rights, explained the technology would act as a “slingshot”, identifying censored material and sending it back at relevant countries.
“We’re responding with new tools. This is a cat-and-mouse game. We’re trying to stay one step ahead of the cat,” he said. The news comes at the end of two days of talks between the US and China amid worsening relations over censorship and attacks on civil liberties.
“In effect, we’re going to be redirecting information back in that governments have initially blocked,” Mr Posner explained. He said this could be done through email or by posting it on blogs, RSS feeds or websites that have not yet been blocked.
China blocks social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which proved pivotal to Arab uprisings this year. Google has also accused Chinese authorities of interfering with its email service.
Recently, search results for US secretary of state Hillary Clinton were blocked in China as a result of her stance on censorship. In a speech in February, she said: “For the United States, the choice is clear. On the spectrum of internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness.”
Last year, Google launched a new tool to show where internet censorship is strongest. The search engine giant’s Transparency Report revealed that the US asked it for information 4,287 times in the first six months of 2010. Just over 1,000 such requests were made to Google by the UK government over the same period.
Information on China was not available, as “Chinese officials consider censorship demands to be state secrets so we cannot disclose that information at this time,” Google said at the time.
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