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Skype working with China Censor
April 19, 2006 12:27 AM   Subscribe

FT Report Oh dear, I had high hopes that Skype would hold out. Still, I guess they are telling us. Can anyone find the list of banned words in the TOM client?
posted by priorpark17 (22 comments total)

 
I doubt the list is in the client, probably on the back-end server.
posted by delmoi at 1:09 AM on April 19, 2006


I doubt the list is in the client, probably on the back-end server.


Really? I could see checking against the server for updates, but it doesn't make sense that a peer to peer system wouldn't have a local (possibly out of date) copy of the list. If it has to filter every word against the server, how peer to peer is it? Or am I totally offbase in thinking skype is p2p?
posted by juv3nal at 1:29 AM on April 19, 2006


I had high hopes that Skype would hold out.

I, too, had held hopes that the soverign, liberated nation of Sykpistan would continue their rallying crusade against the oppression of other people by their controlling governments--

Wait, shit. They're just a corporation, and only concerned with their revenues. My bad.
posted by Mikey-San at 1:38 AM on April 19, 2006


you know, every time someone says that bowing to censorship is the only way to get business in china, I think "then FUCK china!" then I remembe that there are over 1 billion people in china. is there ANY way counteract the power of that number, for a corporation? I doubt it, but i would love to hear otherwise.
posted by shmegegge at 2:16 AM on April 19, 2006


Did anyone see last week's FRONTLINE?
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:31 AM on April 19, 2006


If my child text messages me I can barely understand what they are on about - Skype censor can't be brighter than me can it? "CU 2 morrow @8 @TAM sq. PhanlngGng 4ever"
posted by priorpark17 at 3:35 AM on April 19, 2006


Mayor Curley - yes. It actually struck a nerve in me that I didnt' know existed. I'm pretty much sickened to the point of wanting to vomit when US corporations "bow" (aka "kiss ass") to the Chinese government. Of all the questionable things that companies do, getting in bed with the government of China has to be one of the worst.
posted by melt away at 3:58 AM on April 19, 2006


Ok, so I try not to get into the China-censorship discussions, but I have to defend Skype here. I see nothing wrong with what they are doing.

I'm your standard left-wing anti-corporateism type and I hate censorship with a passion. That being said, I don't think a multinational corporation can just ignore the laws of a developing country or tell them how to operate. I hate that China censors, but that's not Skype's fault, nor should they be blamed for cooperating with local authorities. I only have problems when corporations aid in human rights violations, as Yahoo has been doing. Google censors its US search results in compliance with US law. If I don't like the DMCA, I don't blame Google for complying with it.

I think it's scarier to imagine a world where corporations ignored the laws of the countries in which they operated. Local labor laws or environmental regulations? Psshaw, we don't have to follow. I also don't see avoiding doing business in China as either morally superior to following the laws (as long as no human rights violations). Put pressure where it belongs On the Chinese government.
posted by allen.spaulding at 4:31 AM on April 19, 2006


Put pressure where it belongs On the Chinese government.
I suppose one could argue that putting pressure on the corporations doing business with China is, probably, the only realistic way people have to actually put pressure on the Chinese government.
But, as long as corporations are going to completely ignore any sort of moral obligation to the society from which they profit, this sort of thing will only continue unabated.

For me, the worrying part is whether China will be merely an aberration in terms of corporate/governmental censorship or a bellwether.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:46 AM on April 19, 2006


This is why the world needs open source software.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:51 AM on April 19, 2006


Silly Chinese. In America, coproations don't have to follow the law, in America, they make the law!
posted by Goofyy at 4:54 AM on April 19, 2006


I can understand that Germany has laws preventing neo-Nazis from denying or defending the Holocaust (are you supposed to capitalize that word?), and that it is in the interest of national security to at least screen (if not outright censor) people planning terrorist attacks or Presidential death-threats or what have you, but China's idea of censorship is so broad that it almost seems like it would make sense to simply not have internet access there.

I barely even know what Falun Gong is, and I don't care to research it, but censoring the term "Dalai Lama"?! That is the ultimate in denial. How can they just look the other way when it is so obvious, at least to the other 5 billion people in the world, that they are destroying Tibet?
posted by Clamwacker at 4:59 AM on April 19, 2006


How can they just look the other way when it is so obvious, at least to the other 5 billion people in the world, that they are destroying Tibet?

Yeah, man! They should totally, like, let the Tibetians destroy Tibet.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:06 AM on April 19, 2006


Yeah!
posted by Clamwacker at 5:19 AM on April 19, 2006


China is well on its way to owning the US...they are buying a huge portion of our uncontrollable national debt. We're kissing their ass because we owe them ENORMOUS bucks.
posted by Nicholas West at 5:23 AM on April 19, 2006


Ok, this story doesn't make sense. Text and voice chat between Skype clients is encrypted. This is due to the p2p nature of Skype; your text and voice messages are sometimes routed through other people's skype clients. The encryption keeps these intermediary clients from snooping.

If the communications are encrypted, then filtering for keywords does not work.

Does this Tom Online chinese company mentioned in the article produce a modified skype client that somehow allows filtering? Can Chinese citizens avoid the filter by downloading the official Skype client?
posted by jsonic at 6:16 AM on April 19, 2006


maybe some smartalex could download tomskype and have a looksee inside,
posted by priorpark17 at 6:24 AM on April 19, 2006


Just for the hell of it, I installed the Tom version of Skype on a Virtual PC image.

The installer creates two files in c:\Program Files\Skpye\Phone, "Skype.exe" and the cleverly named "ContentFilter.exe". The Description field for ContentFilter.exe says "TOM Word Review". It appears to be written in Delphi.

If you launch ContentFilter.exe, it runs in the background with no visible UI. Process Explorer shows it has a reference to a 32k file it created in the Skype directory called 'keyfile'.

It has three hidden Windows, one named "TOM Word Review", one named "contentfliter test" [sic], and one unnamed.

If you ran 'strings -a' on ContentFilter.exe, perhaps it would contain URLs and other interesting things. For the record, I have not done this.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:22 AM on April 19, 2006


Google censors its US search results in compliance with US law.

Really? What is google filtering out?
posted by haqspan at 10:02 AM on April 19, 2006


Really? What is google filtering out?

Google routinely removes webpages from its indices when private parties invoke the DMCA. The classic example are the Scientologists, who got Google to filter out some pages that they claim violate their intellectual property holdings.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:22 AM on April 19, 2006


http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca512/keyword.cgi?KeywordID=2
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:23 AM on April 19, 2006


I can understand that Germany has laws preventing neo-Nazis from denying or defending the Holocaust (are you supposed to capitalize that word?), and that it is in the interest of national security to at least screen (if not outright censor) people planning terrorist attacks or Presidential death-threats or what have you, but China's idea of censorship is so broad that it almost seems like it would make sense to simply not have internet access there.

While I don't like the way that China censors, I really don't see it as my business (nor Skype's) to decide how much filtering the country will accept. The only way I think that other countries should intervene in these matters is when there are large-scale human rights violations. The biggest thing China censors, by far, is porn. I don't like that, but again, it's not my call. Now locking up dissidents, that's entirely unacceptable and Yahoo's role is abhorent. I'd be upset if a French company decided to make child-porn available in the US because they thought our laws on the matter were too repressive.

I barely even know what Falun Gong is, and I don't care to research it

They think they can cure cancer. Seriously. Look, I don't like this one any more than the next nutjob cult, but the crackdown is too much.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:29 AM on April 19, 2006


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