Can China Perfect Internet Censorship?

In 2013, Google chairman Eric Schmidt predicted that widespread encryption offered “a real chance that we can eliminate censorship and the possibility of censorship in a decade.” But CNN’s James Griffiths reports a different forecast: that an ever-stronger Great Firewall might eventually lead to a “perfect” censorship system against which circumvention tools are no longer effective:

Since China began controlling its citizens’ Internet access in the mid-1990s, the censors have been engaged in an arms race with activists and developers to block tools that helped people jump over the Firewall and close loopholes that popped up.

Experts warn that as Beijing dedicates more and more money and effort to the fight, it may become increasingly one-sided.

[…] An accurate estimation of the cost and size of the is impossible to come by, as much of the censorship happens in secret, but one indication of the sheer scale of the operation was given this year by the Chinese state media, which reported that more than two million censors are employed around the country, backed up by an incredibly sophisticated technological platform capable of analyzing web traffic and blocking tools designed to subvert it.

[…] Knapp warned that the day may soon come where commercial VPN providers are simply outgunned by Beijing, leaving only activists and volunteers to take on China’s huge censorship apparatus.

“Governments have unlimited resources to build this technology and they’re getting better and better at doing it, at some point there will be no way to bypass a perfect firewall.” [Source]

A number of circumvention tools designed to bypass the Firewall have been shut down in the past year, including projects such as Shadowsocks, whose developer was visited by the police. Outside of China, anti-censorship activists and developers have also been hit, with groups such as GreatFire.org suffering major DDoS attacks attributed to the Chinese government. Currently, China is in the process of finalizing a new Internet security law that will bolster Internet censorship and further strengthen information control within the country.