Chat rooms monitored. Blogs deleted. Search results re-routed. Websites blocked.

Try to search for blacklisted sites like Amnesty International or BBC News in China and you will get an error message or be re-routed to an authorised government site.

The same thing happens when you search for terms like democracy, Tibet, Taiwan or Tiananmen Square – timed out, connection reset.

The Great Firewall

That's Internet censorship, China's 'Golden Shield Project'. The Government is watching you.

Behind what has been dubbed the 'Great Firewall of China' citizens can be imprisoned for sending emails, posting blogs or passing on information deemed to be sensitive, a threat to national sovereignty or a state secret.

In China the Internet has become a new frontier in the fight for human rights.

Thousands of Internet police

China has reportedly employed between 30,000 and 50,000 special Internet police who, with the aid of Western-provided technology, read private emails, conduct surveillance, remove blogs and block banned websites.

On screen, Internet users looking at China's most popular websites will see a cartoon cyber-police officer appear every half hour. The cartoon officer reminds them not to view censored material.

In Internet cafés users have to give their full name and an identification card before a using computer. Many cafés, which are subject to random checks, have installed extra censorship software to make sure their customers don't break the rules.

New rules are regularly created to keep up with the pace of the Internet. In January this year licence agreements came into force dictating – in reaction to video-sharing sites like YouTube – that all video material on the web must be approved by a government regulatory body.

Breeding fear

There is no list of what is censored or what authorities are looking for – it's kept deliberately vague and is constantly updated – this instills fear and uncertainty in Internet surfers in the hope that, on top of all the other controls, they will censor themselves.

China is helped by the Internet companies – global giants Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft, and Chinese companies such as Alibaba and Baidu – who have signed a pledge with the Government, the contents of which have not been made public.

The pledge allows the companies to operate in China, but only under conditions that involve censorship of their users.

Know more

If you'd like to learn how you can get around unwarranted Internet censorship or how you can protect your privacy online, have a look at these documents:

Or to find out about Internet censorship in other parts of the world check out Irrepressible.

Case studies

To learn more about who is affected by internet censorship check out our case studies.