Saturday, February 11, 2006

Helping Chinese see banned sites

There is a growing number of companies started by Chinese expats to help their fellow Chinese back home to surf websites that are banned by the Chinese government. One such company is started by Bill Xia, a member of the banned Chinese sect, Falun Gong. His company, Dynamic Internet Technology Inc even has human rights organizations using the technology to evade Chinese censors. From Business Week:
The simplicity of DIT's approach belies its effectiveness. The company distributes software, called FreeGate, which disguises the sites a person visits. In addition, DIT sends out mass e-mails to Chinese Web surfers for clients such as VOA, which is banned in China. The e-mails include a handful of temporary Web addresses that host off-limits content and springboards to other forbidden sites...

Yet despite being outmanned and outspent -- Xia has a tiny staff, an annual budget of about $1 million, and relies mainly on volunteers -- DIT's customers say it has been remarkably successful. Xia's staff monitors the success rate of the hundreds of thousands of e-mails they send out each day. If one gets bounced back, the language must be scoured and the offending words detected and added to the company's blacklist. Workarounds are often developed, much like spammers finding holes in a corporate e-mail filter. For instance, an e-mail that contains "VOA" might get squelched, but one with a zero substituted for the "O" could get through.

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