Which Legal Blogs are Banned in China?

Yale Law School professor Jack Balkin of the Balkinization blog tests to see which legal blogs can be accessed in China and which are filtered out by the government's censorship technology. He finds little consistency in the pattern:

[A] law student who picked me up at the airport explained to me that he had heard of Balkinization in China but that, at least in Chengdu, the site was blocked. When I got to the hotel I checked and sure enough, he was right...

For amusement, I also tried to see if I could reach a number of other prominent law and law professor blogs. I was able to reach Volokh Conspiracy, SCOTUSBlog, How Appealing, Election Law, Instapundit, Mirror of Justice, Concurring Opinions, Becker-Posner, PrawfsBlawg, Feminist Law Professors, Business Associations Blog, Lessig Blog, and Black Prof. I was not able to reach Balkinization, Althouse, U Chicago, Leiter Law School and The Conglomerate.

There is almost no reason to believe that, from the standpoint of the Chinese government, Balkinization is more subversive than Volokh Conspiracy or Becker Posner, or a number of other blogs on this list. It is likely that, as with most Internet filtering schemes, the results are some combination of overblocking technology, arbitrary decisionmaking, and simple luck of the draw.

I'm glad to see that the VC is available in China. However, that may be because the government's censors haven't gotten around to reading my highly critical post about Chinese land seizures - a pattern of violation of property rights that makes Kelo seem like a walk in the park by comparison.

Matt Tievsky (mail):
Now you're just asking for it.
1.19.2008 3:36pm
JosephSlater (mail):
You almost sound jealous.
1.19.2008 3:44pm
SenatorX (mail):
China is going to become very volatile as their citizens demand more for themselves.
1.19.2008 3:56pm
Bad (mail) (www):
The question is whether they will be demanding more political freedom, or just more economic freedom. It's important not to take for granted that everyone in China shares the same concerns about political and expressive rights that most Americans do (but just keep quiet about it for now): these policies in China are, unfortunately, not held up by top-down party control alone.

It's especially sad though, that Chinese intellectuals, even those that would defend their state's policies are crippled in their ability to engage in these sorts of global discussions, crippled by those very policies.
1.19.2008 4:21pm
Hey Skipper (mail) (www):
I travel to China very frequently.

From what I have observed, if a blog is hosted on a generic blogging service, Blogger, say, the Great Firewall of China blocks it, because it blocks everything Blogger.

However, all the self hosted sites (such as Volokh) I have ever tried to access come through unimpaired.
1.19.2008 4:34pm
As Skipper said. I seriously doubt that the PRC censors give a rat's buttocks about subversive content written in English in any case. They are only interested in policing Chinese-written content. Balkinization is getting blocked because it happens to be hosted by the same service as some Chinese blogs.
1.19.2008 5:21pm
Colin (mail):
The Berkman Center at HLS did some really excellent work on this back in 2002. You can see their summary of the project, and some of their thoughts on the censors' methodology, here.
1.19.2008 5:45pm
Donald Clarke (www):
Many people in China can read English (particularly the people the government cares about), and thus the censors do care about English content. The BBC site is blocked, for example, and for a long time the New York Times site was blocked, until NYT reporters raised the issue in an interview with Jiang Zemin, who promised to get the blocking lifted (and did). And good luck accessing the English-language sites of various human rights organizations (or Falun Gong sites).

My English-language blog on Chinese law (Chinese Law Prof Blog) is blocked, but of course they never tell you why. In some cases it's almost random; remember that the people who do this have to justify their existence. Trying to figure out what you did wrong is a mug's game.
1.19.2008 5:49pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
As a libertarian, did you expect anything but arbitrariness out of such a huge bureaucracy?
1.19.2008 6:22pm
LarrySheldon (mail):
I have several observations.

First of them is that I am not a lawyer, I have never been to China, and I am not terribly well educated (FSVO "educated").

Another is that in the small amount of travel (real and virtual, and within "virtual" via reading, via listening, and via the several forms of electronic correspondence) I have found that USAians who think English is not important simply are not thinking the thing through. English is the Lingua Franca of both the world and the Internet.

I have corresponded (in near-real time) with people in China and I an convinced that the censorship is both real, and leaky. The same thing that makes spam so hard to control (in addition to the courts of Fargo, North Dakota and the like) is the complexity of the Internet and its constituent Internets. Furthermore, I suspect that besides the source (as an important classifier), the recipient is. (Things at a hotel frequented by foreigners may be filtered differently from things in one neighborhood or another. (Have you ever tested for reachability at a public library here? In the PRB? The dorms at your University?)
1.19.2008 6:57pm
LarrySheldon (mail):
FYI "PRB" is not a typo.
1.19.2008 6:58pm
Cathy (mail) (www):
My self-hosted blog is available in China, but for reasons I can't make out - the Huey Lewis and the News fan site - is not...
1.19.2008 8:03pm
JoshL (mail):
I can't speak about China, but Volokh Conspiracy is blocked by certain NYC DOE lines/computers, as I found out this week.
1.19.2008 8:15pm
Mike Friedman (mail):
My English-language blog on Chinese law (Chinese Law Prof Blog) is blocked, but of course they never tell you why.

Honestly, I'm not impressed if a person writing a blog on Chinese law isn't aware already that he is blocked because he is hosted on Typepad ( which is blocked in its entirety.

Anyway, I am happy to enlighten you on why you are blocked.
1.19.2008 9:58pm
Within the anonymity network I use most often, I have just counted 53 running routers located in China; the number is subject to change at any time. Some of them are likely to be run by government agencies, and some may be run by criminal enterprises or by unscrupulous persons; nonetheless, the fact that at least some persons and entities are finding a way to use the Internet unrestricted, part of the time at least, fosters hope. There are likely to be risks associated with using proxy or a proxy-using anonymity network, especially for those running routers, so the situation bears watching—I could also say that for several other countries as well, including the USA.
1.19.2008 11:33pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):

but for reasons I can't make out - the Huey Lewis and the News fan site - is not...

Someone in the Chinese Government has some taste?

I think its a mistake to think that China has not disapproved of a blog simply because it hasn't blocked it yet.
1.20.2008 12:43pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Want to be blocked?

Truthfulness. Compassion. Forbearance.


1.20.2008 6:34pm
Yes, the Great Firewall of China blocks anything Blogger. When I was there for 5 months, I couldn't get Balkinization or my own blog hosted on Blogger. There are a number of work-arounds, and just about anyone in China can get these things if they want to.

Here are two proxy servers that will get you to any Blogger-hosted blog:
1.21.2008 12:40am
Hey Skipper (mail) (www):

Thanks -- I'll give them a try Wednesday.
1.21.2008 1:21am
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1.23.2008 10:53pm