- By Edmund DownieEdmund Downie and Sophia Jones are editorial researchers at Foreign Policy.
Whoa, Nellie. Some international press outlets appear to have mistakenly reported that Google+, Google’s new social networking site released yesterday, has already been blocked in China. But a handful of major blog websites in China have since debunked that story. According to their reports, it seems that Google+ is being not blocked, but "throttled." In other words, you can access it, but it’s painfully slow. The Chinese have used this strategy before, and to great effect, says tech website Penn Olson’s Steven Millward:
Web throttling is a tactic new to China’s Great Firewall, and has been seriously slowing pretty much all overseas internet speeds all year. Gmail particularly has been horribly throttled, to the point were it can take five or ten minutes or more to go from the login page to your inbox. It’s a very underhanded tactic by Net Nanny: being seen not to block the service, whilst actually rendering it nearly useless to its users.
Shanghaiist isn’t impressed with the research techniques behind the mistaken reports:
Washington Post, and others, are only citing GFW [Great Firewall, the nickname for China’s internet censorship firewall] check-up sites like Great Firewall of China and Ping. To give you an idea of how unreliable those tests are, we just tried Google+ again on both, and got an "OKAY" from Ping and a "fail" from Great Firewall.
Sadly, when it comes to censorship, Western news outlets have something of a track record with overzealous reporting. This spring, the lede of a New York Times piece purported to expose Chinese propaganda agents cutting off phone calls at the mention of the word "protest." Shanghai-based journalist (and FP contributor) Adam Minter tested the Times‘ claims and found them overblown, as did Shanghaiist’s Kenneth Tan. Later that day, Times researcher Jonathan Ansfield, who was involved with the piece, left a damning comment on Minter’s post:
for the record, the contributing reporter’s own tests comport with yours. regrettably his input on the story made little difference.
The next day, the Times published a correction saying that the recipients of the calls cited in the article, who were left anonymous in the article, were both Times reporters in the Beijing bureau, adding:
Because scrutiny of press communications could easily be higher than for those of the public at large, the calls could not be assumed to represent a broader trend; therefore, those examples should not have been given such prominence in the article.
A lesson learned, we hope.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |