The Great Firewall

Is this a specific thing? And does the Chinese government call it this?

By Deane Barker

No, it’s not a specific thing. According to Wikipedia:

The Great Firewall is the combination of legislative actions and technologies enforced by the People’s Republic of China to regulate the Internet domestically.

So it’s not just software – it’s the combined effect of laws and implied threat of the Chinese government, coupled with multiple technical systems and practices.

The phrase is a play on The Great Wall of China. It traces to a 1997 article in Wired magazine, entitled The Great Firewall.

At ISPs, Internet cafes, even state censorship committees, we meet the wired of China – and discover that the technology China needs to build the most powerful country on Earth in the 21st Century threatens to undermine the institutions that rule the nation. And Beijing’s control freaks are worried.

The Golden Shield Project was an information management initiative started by the Chinese government in 1998, so that article – and the nickname it introduced – predates any official efforts by China to restrict the Internet. Thus, The Great Firewall is a slang name for something that didn’t even exist at the time the phrase was coined.

Clearly, the Chinese government doesn’t call their collective efforts by this name. It is under the Golden Shield Project, or the more bureaucratically named “National Public Security Work Informational Project.”

Why I Looked It Up

We were involved with a customer at a work that wanted to serve content to customers in China. The phrase came up a few times in that conversation. I knew that it referred to Internet restrictions in China in general, but never understood if it was a specific thing.

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