Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blooking of Github Led to Whitehouse Petition

Github become the newest major programming websites blocked by China's Great FireWall (GFW), following glories of sites such as SourceForge, Python, etc.

Concerned citizens filed a petition at the Whitehouse. The online petition asked the President to deny entry to the US to those "who help internet censorship, builders of Great Firewall in China." The Whitehouse pledge to respond to a petition if it can generate 100,000 signatures within 2 weeks. This petition collected about 3,000 votes in its first day.

Demanding an immigration policy change from the Whitehouse might be a long fetch. There are, actually, easier ways to do just the same, if the movement can gain the sympathy from the visa interviewers at the US's Beijing Embassy.

The embassy should be provided with a list of most notoriously active GFW researchers. Individual interviewer may block anyone who appears on that list from entering US. Per US laws, the interview agent must exercise her own judgement in each case, regardless of directives from her boss or other government agencies.

The GFW is the most extensive and most advanced content filtering and management system in the world. It is estimated thousands of researchers are working on this project on daily basis. Most of them keep a low profile. Few ever show their pride on the Wall in public, with the exception of two persons so far.

The first one is of course 'the Father of the GFW', Mr. Fang Binxing. In an interview, Mr. Fang said he truly believe the Wall is an important tool that benefits the Communists government. Because the government is for the people, thus it also benefits the people.

The second person is an associate professor Mr. Han Weili in Fudan University. The Wall is rarely discussed in public. When Professor Han posted a job ad for research assistants on the internal bulletin board system (BBS), several students questioned how could he do this in his conscience. Some commented that how would anyone get involved to fix their resume later on (so that not to offend any potential employers whom with no exception must have been victimized by the research). Han boasted his 12 years experience on the Wall, and stated that he only interested in the technology. A student pointed out there is a difference when you already knew how your technology would be deployed (against human mankind) but still work on it.

Mr. Han Weili should be found a spot on the list, no question about that.

Dr. Han's research activities can be viewed at his university homepage.

On an unrelated note, it seems the Great FireWall conducted an MITM attack targeting the Github. It is not clear whether the attack is sponsored by the government, or is a personal act launched by a few operators (Dr. Han). Visitors within China was cheated from a self-issued certificate when they tried to access the Github websites. Chinese government and GFW operators have the authority to issue security certificates with their root certificate privilege. The attack lasted about an hour. The fake certificate was captured and displayed at many security sites and blogs. While it is impractical to yank the root certificate controlled by Chinese government, concerned individuals should make an effort to remove it from their own computers.

Update: After the petition, the GFW Dr. Han issued a statement in which he denied any involvement in the GFW project ever. The Seagull found a screenshot of the exchanges between the GFW Dr. and a Fudan University student luosheng. Anyone reads Chinese can see with your own eyes.

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