Surfing the Web Within China

Ian Elwood
Google China Logo
Google China Logo

Being an activist who works in China may have gotten a lot harder in the past few weeks. Google and twenty other large US based companies were hit by a sophisticated cyber-attack that originated from within China in December, making the company question its policies about doing business there. What is of concern to our readers is that the attackers were attempting to get information on Chinese human rights activists. While the attacks were unsuccessful it still brings up a familiar theme to those advocating on behalf of the poor and marginalized -- questioning the status quo is not always popular.

Working across Chinese borders is notoriously difficult for activists, NGOs and businesses. The censorship of a long list of websites (try accessing this site from within China) makes international coordination more difficult than with other countries. Google does not specify the parties involved in the attacks -- though the Chinese government is well known for its censorship and persecution of human rights activists -- but the company did state that these attacks have made it "review the feasibility of our business operations in China."

One positive outcome, from a human rights and free speech perspective, is that Google has drawn a line in the sand and will be negotiating with the Chinese government to offer uncensored search results to China. Whether this will happen or will go dark because of government resistance is yet to be decided, but either way there will be a large impact on any international group working across Chinese borders. Stay tuned...

Ian Elwood is the Web Producer for International Rivers, he blogs at:

More information: 
  • One search engine that does not record personal information is startpage. Because the search engine does not record this data, there is no repository of personal information that could be mined.
  • For the super geeky, here is a Firefox add-on that allows you to surf the web from anywhere in the world, as a virtual Chinese Internet tourist. You will be routed to a location behind China's firewall, visiting forbidden sites will disconnect you for up to 15 minutes.