It was bound to happen, China is desperately worried about the freedom of communication that the Internet provides so they're apparently upping the stakes. They are moving to a whitelist based internet censorship model, rather than the previous blacklist.
This is very, very bad if you're a Chinese Web Surfer! So let's briefly explain these two expressions, they are actually quite common terms used in most filtering technologies. But many of you will have proper jobs and may not have heard the phrases before.
Basically a blacklist in this context is a list of sites, IP addresses and Webpages which cannot be accessed through the filter. A whitelist is a list of web sites that CAN be accessed through the filter. Most content filters use both concepts mainly to ensure that specific websites are never blocked accidentally. So if there's a web site you always want to allow through then you put it on a whitelist so that if it did accidentally appear on the blacklist, it would always get through.
For instance sometimes education web sites which deal with sexual health often get blocked because of the language they use - you'd put these sites on the white list so the blocks don't apply.
The problem is that if you move to a censoring policy based on a whitelist it becomes much, much more restrictive. Rather than presuming you can access any site unless it is blocked, the Chinese are moving towards a model where you can only access web sites approved by the Chinese Government!
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) are planning to create this list, you have to register with them to have your domain put on the whitelist and be accessible. There is still some slight doubt at this stage whether it's just Chinese sites or foreign ones but I'm sure they'll be looking at the whole internet.
What the Chinese will be actually reducing the Internet to is an INTRANET , an internal network where all content is completely controlled, it's like your company web pages, or the funny little AOL land that some people live in.
Even worse the majority of technologies which can easily bypass content filters based on blacklists won't work, TOR, proxies and even Identity Cloaker will all get blocked unless they can get IP addresses registered on the MIIT IP white list - which is probably going to be a bit tricky.
I'm hoping if I pop this picture around my blog I may sneak in though. Nice haircut.
Hopefully this won't happen, the Chinese are huge internet users, they will not be happy and I don't blame them. The only other country I know of who has this model is the North Koreans whose version of the internet is merely a selection of Government propoganda websites that nobody wants to see anyway. It sure as hell isn't the internet as we understand it, unless of course you're high up in Government and then you can access well anything, hmmm.
This my friends, is where censorship leads, countries start to block a few web sites claiming to protect their citizens from all the nasty stuff and then realise they really can't control access to the internet this way. That is unless they block everything unless it's checked first.
But if these plans are followed through the Chinese people will no longer have access to the internet just a pale censored list of Government approved web sites.
I am extremely worried about these developments, we need China, and the Chinese people online. They are a huge part of the world, the internet is a way for humans to communicate across religious, geographical, political and cultural borders, our governments should not restrict this - humanity should be in charge of censorship.