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Great Firewall Upgrade Redirects Users to Adult Sites

The Chinese authorities have tweaked their fearsome censorship apparatus the Great Firewall but with the unusual consequence of redirecting netizens wanting to visit blocked pages to adult web sites.

A common method Beijing uses to prevent Chinese internet users from visiting blocked sites such as Facebook and Twitter is through DNS poisoning, where they are diverted from legitimate servers to fake or non-existent ones, so eventually the request is timed out.

However, recently netizens have commented that they are now often being directed to real IP addresses which are accessible in China, according to anti-censorship body Greatfire.org.

“One Chinese internet user reported to us that when he tried to access Facebook in China, he was sent to a Russian website, unrelated to Facebook,” it noted in a blog post. “Another user tweeted that he was redirected to a German adult site when he tried to access a website for a VPN.”

As Greatfire argues, the redirecting of users to pornographic content is ironic given that it’s technically illegal in China.

It continues:

“The authorities often cite the ‘protection of minors’ as one reason to justify internet censorship. But in this example, users who are trying to access perfectly legal but blocked content instead are sent to illegal (in China) adult content websites. Perhaps this is a mistake but it may not be. Does this signal that the censorship authorities are beyond the rule of law in China?”

It appears as if the reasoning behind the new strategy is to counter the growing popularity of anti-DNS poisoning tools, which previously worked by effectively blacklisting the small number of fake IP addresses the Great Firewall used to redirect users trying to access blocked pages.

By instead sending these users to real IP addresses, these tools will no longer be effective.

“In addition, the authorities may be experimenting with a new way of hiding censorship from the people by redirecting them to random sites that are accessible – making it seem that the problem rests with the host website,” Greatfire added.

“It is clear that the authorities treat the great firewall as a work-in-progress and are constantly tweaking and making changes to the censorship apparatus. We expect to see more changes in the coming months.”

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