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Great Chinese LAN

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大中华局域网 (dà Zhōng huá jú yù wǎng): The Great Chinese LAN (local area network)

The “Great Chinese LAN” sarcastically refers to the internet as it exists in China. A local area network (LAN) is a computer network covering a small physical area, like a home, office, or small groups of buildings. The term ridicules how internet censorship has transformed the World Wide Web in China into nothing more than an isolated local area network.

As it became apparent that the internet was a space in which people could freely exchange ideas, the Chinese government asked several software companies, including Nortel, Cisco, and Sun Microsystems, to help it build a virtual wall. The result was the Golden Shield Project, known to most Chinese netizens as the Great Firewall, or GFW.

In addition to censoring certain sensitive content, the Great Firewall blocks websites, including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, that have been or could be used by activists and dissidents to connect, spread information, and organize protests.

As a result, Chinese-based companies such as Youku, Sina Weibo, and RenRen have grown in the space left by those blocked websites, providing similar services, but with harsher censorship measures and surveillance. The landscape of the Chinese internet has therefore become much like a local area network, with China's netizens restricted for the most part to China-based, government-regulated websites and barred from many international platforms.