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Great Firewall of China

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

The Great Firewall of China is a country-wide firewall system that restricts content censored by the Chinese Government. The Great Firewall is part of the country's efforts to protect Chinese corporate and state secrets and infrastructure from cyber attacks, an initiative officially known as the Golden Shield. The firewall is controversial because of fears that the Chinese government is using cybersecurity as justification for controlling what information the country's citizens can access. Sites blocked by the Great Firewall include Facebook, Twitter, the New York Times and Google and its services, including Youtube.

Web sites blocked by the Great Firewall generally appear as though they are experiencing technical issues, rather than providing the end user with any indication that the site has been blocked. Browsers typically return error codes that say a page is not found (404 error), the connection needs to be reset or the page has timed out. The Great Firewall blocks and redirects internet traffic by a number of means, including DNS poisoning, IP address blocks, analyzing and filtering URLs, packet inspection and filtering, resetting connections and blocking VPNs.

As in several other countries, certain keywords are flagged by the government in order to monitor  activity. Several sources have confirmed that as of April, 2019, China has blocked Wikipedia across all language URLs. Some Chinese citizens have found ways to circumvent state censorship with proxy servers.

This was last updated in May 2019

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