US helps Chinese access banned sites — and blocks access to other sites!

Thanks to a comment from Eric of Wo Bu Mingbai, I’ve learned that the US propaganda people are playing their own games with Internet site blocking.

The U.S. government concocted a brilliant plan a few years ago: Why not give Internet surfers in China and Iran the ability to bypass their nations’ notoriously restrictive blocks on Web sites?
Soon afterward, the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) invented a way to let people in China and Iran easily route around censorship by using a U.S.-based service to view banned sites such as BBC News, MIT and Amnesty International.

But an independent report released Monday reveals that the U.S. government also censors what Chinese and Iranian citizens can see online. Technology used by the IBB, which puts out the Voice of America broadcasts, prevents them from visiting Web addresses that include a peculiar list of verboten keywords. The list includes “ass” (which inadvertently bans, “breast” (, “hot” ( and, “pic” ( and “teen” (

“The minute you try to temper assistance with evading censorship with judgments about how that power should be used by citizens, you start down a path from which there’s no clear endpoint,” said Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard University law professor and co-author of the report prepared by the OpenNet Initiative.

How stupid can we get?

In the abstract, the argument is a reasonable one. If the IBB’s service had blocked only hard-core pornographic Web sites, few people would object.

Instead, the list unintentionally reveals its author’s views of what’s appropriate and inappropriate. The official naughty-keyword list displays a conservative bias that labels any Web address with “gay” in them as verboten–a decision that affects thousands of Web sites that deal with gay and lesbian issues, as well as, a Roman Catholic site.

More to the point, the U.S. government could have set a positive example to the world regarding acceptance of gays and lesbians–especially in Iran, which punishes homosexuality with death.

The Discussion: 7 Comments

Oh just fucking great…take your pick: Chinese or American censors. Wonder who’s filtering comes out more whitebread in the end?

May 3, 2004 @ 1:14 pm | Comment

Looks like the US Cyber Nanny is concerned with “dirty” sites that include shocking words like “gay” or “breast.” Typical American puritanism. Stupid and self-defeating, but at least they don’t impose it on the entire nation. I hope they consider scrapping the censorship altogether.

May 3, 2004 @ 1:20 pm | Comment

I hardly know whether to laugh or cry …

May 4, 2004 @ 3:25 am | Comment

i want to access banned sites

October 11, 2004 @ 2:12 am | Comment

Dear Editor,
To access banned sites is not only the problems of surfers of China and Iran but also for the net users of Burma.
There are two kinds of blocks web sites and web mail. What we want badly is e-mail communication which is most difficult to access.

August 21, 2006 @ 8:50 pm | Comment

It is so shame that free will and free information access is denied. You can fight and access all banned sites from Fight for our freedom.

October 11, 2006 @ 7:59 pm | Comment

You can also use to surf blocked sites by goverment or by your company. Access free information and surf anonymously.

October 27, 2006 @ 3:21 pm | Comment

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