Surveillance in China and the US, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio National’s Media Report, August 9, 2007
Kenneth Farrall is from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s been busy comparing and contrasting the surveillance practices of government authorities and companies in both the US and its growing international rival, China. He says while many Americans wouldn’t like to admit it, there are a lot of similarities between the way the authorities in both nations actually surveil their populations. [mp3 file of interview]
The Net Effect. IEEE Spectrum, June 2005.
Farrall says China’s authorities are much more effective today in keeping even technologically savvy Chinese from banned sites. Also, the censors are much more interested in Chinese-language sites than others. But the censorship is still pretty light, he says. “In some ways, it’s not that different from AOL, here in the United States.” AOL has blacklists to create “safe zones” free from pornography, anti-Semitism, or other things deemed offensive.
“The Internet is fairly centralized in the United States, too,” notes Finkelstein, the Cambridge, Mass., programmer. “Not for political reasons but for economic ones.” It turns out that the largest Internet providers push all their packets of data through large regional routers connected to proxy servers that already examine packets for evidence of quality-of-service or other problems.
“Our political system is vastly different from China’s,” Finkelstein says, “but if we had a national panic, if we felt we had to censor the Internet, it’s scary how easily it could be done. There’s a famous saying, ‘The Internet considers censorship to be damage, and routes around it.’ I say, what if censorship is in the router?”
Wrist Radio Tags, MIT Technology Review, November 2004.
Not everyone is amused by such applications. While tracking and identifying people has obvious benefits, slapping RFID tags on people could infringe on their privacy if the technology is misused, warns Kenneth Farrall of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, DC. Though Farrall admits that the early applications of RFID tagging seem to do more good than harm, he cautions that as the technology grows more sophisticated, it could become more difficult to control the data.
East Meets West: Insights from the Chinese E-revolution
Knowledge@Wharton, March, 2000
The inspiration behind VirtualChina.com was the growing number of Westerners interested in learning more about China. Founded in May 1999, VirtualChina.com is an English-language portal dedicated to breaking down barriers and stimulating exchange between China and the West. There’s a growing interest “not only from big companies but from small and medium-size companies who see a tremendous market potential but are constantly stopped from doing business because of” distance and language barriers, says CEO Farrall. As a news source and content provider, VirtualChina.com bridges these barriers by offering broad coverage of finance, culture and information technology, as well as access to business directories, investment guides and reference materials, he notes. Company headquarters are in New York, with branch offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
VirtualChina.com and Sina.com Sign Content License Agreement
February 2, 2000
“We are excited to be initiating a partnership with SINA.com,” says Kenneth Farrall, Virtual China’s Chairman and CEO. “We are honored that SINA.com has chosen us to serve as their voice to the community of English-speaking investors interested in China.”
Virtual China Acquires China Buzz Inc.
Asia.Internet.com, January 26, 2000
“By merging with Virtual China, we join forces with the top China-focused
editorial team on the Internet,” Schwankert said. “Our goal is to present
the growing youth culture of China, its ideas, its music, and its energy to
the global stage and the global marketplace.”
Virtual China chairman and CEO Kenneth Farrall said his firm needed a strong
partner in China, describing ChinaBuzz as “perfect”, and adding that the
acquisition “will add a whole new level of China savvy to all of our China
coverage, especially in our entertainment and technology spaces.”
China.com shares to be offered on Wall Street
CNN Television and CNN Online, July 11, 1999
“If you were to type ‘China.com’ into a browser in mainland China,
it would just hang,” said Kenneth Farrall, president of Virtualchina.com.
“It would never get a response because the servers which block a number of
sites, including CNN occasionally… were also blocking China.com during that
By any other name, could China.com be so confident?
New York Times, June 30, 1999
The company does operate a portal called china.com, which is aimed at users
in mainland China, but technology executives said it generated little traffic.
In a recent ranking of Web sites conducted by the Chinese Government, it
placed 17th, behind destinations like Sinanet and Sohu.
“Given all the P.R. they’ve created, they really should be generating more
traffic,” said Hanson Cheah, the executive director of Asia Tech Ventures,
a venture capital firm here that specializes in Internet companies.
Kenneth Farrall, an expert on the Internet in China who runs a consulting
firm in New York, said: “China.com has never been a factor in the Internet
business in China. It doesn’t register on the radar screen.”
South China Morning Post, January 11, 1999
China may have as many as nine million Internet users by 2000,
four million more than official estimates, the results of a survey released
The survey, by US-based Matrix East Inc and Hong Kong research company
Big Brains Ltd, found there are more than 2.4 million Internet users, twice
as many as the 1.2 million official figures project. “Current official projections
for the growth of Internet usage in China suggest there will be only five
million by 2000. Our numbers suggest that the figure will be closer to nine
million, ” Peter Lovelock, of Big Brains, said.
“Existing regulations on Internet use in China expressly forbid the ‘lending’
or ‘transferral’ of accounts. The Government is reluctant to acknowledge
that the law is being broken, so official estimates end up being unrealistically
low,” said Kenneth Farall, of Matrix East Inc.
Bridges Political Gap
The Christian Science Monitor, January 7, 1999
Stepped-up contacts are now spawning a pan-Chinese pop culture
that is spreading and gaining speed as the digital global village links the
three regions into a “virtual” union, says Ken Farrall, the head of Matrix
East Inc., which sponsors a Web site on Internet use in China. “The Internet
is changing the concept of Greater China into a concrete entity,” says Mr.
Hits at E-mail to Curb Dissent
Christian Science Monitor, December 31 1998
“During the entire era of reforms, China’s leaders have attempted
to open the economy and country while maintaining political control,” says
Ken Farrall, who heads China Matrix, which operates a Web site on Internet
use in China. Just as on ongoing wave of dissident trials is being used to
make China’s 1.2 billion citizens think twice before publicly criticizing
the party, so is Lin’s prosecution a warning to Web surfers. “The government
wants the people to censor themselves,” says Mr. Farrall.
With an explosion of Internet use here – from 100,000 Chinese in 1996
to as many as 5 million today – Beijing is focusing on “increasingly sophisticated
monitoring techniques” in addition to blocking numerous Web sites, Farrall
New York Times, August 3, 1998
“The Chinese see the Internet as the savior of their economy,”
said Kenneth Farrall, … who lives in Xiamen, in southeastern China. “My
impression is that the people blocking Web sites are paying lip service to
the old guard in Beijing.”
Internet Censorship in China
Online Journalism Review, May 13 1998
Kenneth Farrall also found China’s Internet censorship to be very
minor, with almost no effect on a user’s ability to access information….
For Farrall, so much confusion and inconsistency in the blocking business
proves that China’s Internet censorship is mild. “Certain Western news institutions
pass in and out of favor several times a year, and are added or removed
to the list as often,” he said. “Still, the logic is puzzling. I believe
it is just additional evidence that [the government] is not making a serious
“Most professionals in the industry believe the list of blocked sites
is intended only to convince the Internet-illiterate old-guard, with the
exception of net savvy Jiang Zemin, that the Internet can be controlled,
and is not to be feared,” he said.
Even if the government intends to bar all unwanted sites, Farrall believes
it doesn’t have the ability to do so. “The type of blocking they’re doing,
at the router level, means that there are relatively simple ways for those
who know how to circumvent the blocks.
“Active censorship of the Internet is becoming increasingly expensive
and impractical as more users go online,” said Farrall. “Existing blocks
are easily overcome by using proxy servers. New Web sites come on line every
day, old web sites change their addresses. Content from one is mirrored
a Hundred Modems Bloom
Salon Magazine, January 14 1998
Kenneth Farrall, the Internet consultant, goes further: He sees
the new regulations as paving the way for even greater freedom.
“Rather than representing a new level of control and restrictions on the
Internet here,” says Farrall, “these new regulations are being released
in anticipation of a loosening of restrictions on the Internet industry
here. Among the positive developments this year will be cheaper access fees,
competition and the strong possibility that Western companies will be allowed
entrance into the ISP market in a few test cities.”
“In Beijing,” argues Farrall, “the government is growing increasingly
aware that if China is to be economically competitive in the next decade
it must be wired. The central government has much more to fear from growing
labor unrest than it does from cyberspace.”
Summer, 1998: China Central Television
– Interview with CCTV. Mr. Farrall comments on state of Internet in China.
May 30, 1998: FJTV News, Fujian, China
– coverage of Mr. Farrall speaking at ChinaVista national press conference.
June 13, 1996: XMTV News, Xiamen
– coverage of Mr. Farrall speaking at Xindeco Internet Services Xiamen city press conference.