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Taiwan to block Tencent and Baidu streaming sites on security risk (nikkei.com)
171 points by ilamont 52 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments



Tencent is making large moves into youth-targeting western media. They are also the world's largest gaming company; League of Legends, PUBG, et cetera are Tencent properties.

For instance, they own something like 40% of Epic Games, who is currently throwing large envelopes of cash around to secure a strong position in video game distribution.

If there is cause to be concerned about China applying soft power to sway western opinions, then there is cause to be concerned about Tencent.


Epic runs Fortnite, that allegedly made $3bn profit in 2018 [1]. That is not a small feat, plus they have a foothold in millions of machines. And from the dialogue we had in HN a few days ago on how Fortnite was accessing/scanning steam friends it seems that they are pretty greedy to map out any relationships they can.

[1]: https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2018/12/27/fortnite-de...


IIRC they read Steam friends but did not do anything with the data without consent.


And? Just because they read non-Epic game files without consent and do nothing, doesn't mean they're not going to pull a facebook.


Not to mention that it just poses a security risk, to YOU (the consumer). More places that have your data means more ways for it to leak.

Don't just blow this off as "oh but they aren't using it" (to GP, not parent). If you're going to gather data, there needs to be a reason. Hoarding it can be dangerous.


AFAIK, the Epic launcher copied the data to a different location on the user’s disk, but didn’t transmit it over the Internet. So the data wasn’t “gathered” in the way you’re suggesting.


> concerned about China applying soft power to sway western opinions

China blocked Google/Twitter/Facebook with the the same logic.


That's not really the full story though. The CCP was worried about the passive soft power of an uncensored internet. The concern stated here is for soft power resulting from the active influence campaigns and censorship originating from the CCP.


Can Google/Facebook/Twitter be considered "uncensored internet"? To what degree is a culture's view of moderate speech different than its influence of "soft power"?


It's not seperable. The spread of one's cultural values by way of dominating media is a tried and true application of soft power.


Or they could, you know, be a neutral search engine.


Then people would complain that they aren't taking down the Christchurch shooting videos and are condoning hate.


Authoritarian policies thrive alongside tragedy.


That’s why films and TV shows are so powerful. Hollywood is the greatest weapon of American soft power.


And that's why you see so much Chinese influence in Hollywood.


> To what degree is a culture's view of moderate speech different than its influence of "soft power"?

Google/Facebook/Twitter are pretty darn conservative about what they censor. "Hate speech is bad" is technically a cultural statement, I guess, but one I feel wholly comfortable spreading everywhere.


Google are pretty hot on censoring copyright infringement. Which is arguably a pretty western value, and is a direct consequence of US government influence.


Generally speaking, this is a bit different in that violating copyright is illegal, not just in the US but in the foreign countries where Google operates. Sometimes in name only, true, but the government of those countries is still ostensibly saying that they want copyrighted works protected. Google is attempting to comply.

I was also under the impression that impression takedowns were not automatically applied worldwide, although I could be wrong. I know I can often view Youtube videos that were taken down for copyright by connecting to a Russian VPN.


Does that make any difference from the perspective of the nation who feels threatened by the power?

From the Chinese perspective I don't think it makes much difference whether something they perceive to be threatening originates somewhere in the soup of the internet and then makes its way into China or is a concerted effort by a foreign government.

I think the same would be true in reverse, when the Chinese internet would collectively promote material running counter to US interests, say for patriotic reasons, it'd be subject to scrutiny just the same. (In fact historically that did sort of happen to say, pro Soviet American citizens)


Says the person who is probably not among the following Chinese people who would probably disagree:

- 10000 who were killed in 1989

- parents whose baby who were poisoned by melanine-tainted milk

- people who were forced out of their homes by corrupt local officials and property developers

- human rights lawyers locked up without due process even by the standards of the Chinese written laws

The US has its fair share of misdeeds, but it does not blatantly censor the Internet and public discourse.

Don't conflate Chinese people with CPC.


Anyone disagrees with you are sponsored by CPC. That "if" statement works well for you.


- prisoners executed in order to harvest their organs


Or * 1-2 Million Uighurs locked into reeducation camps...uh, sorry, I meant to write "voluntarily attend vocational schools"


How do you tell the difference between passive soft power and active influence campaigns? Consider e.g. the handwringing about Russian troll farms.


China was worried about Chinese people using those sites to talk to each other, in a way that could not be censored. The Chinese gov't is far more worried about that than "Western values" (though that is occasionally a concern).


Based on the moves they've been making recently, I don't think that's true. Investments into Reddit, Hollywood and gaming companies show China is attempting to buy influence and soft power. China knows that if it gets sanctioned because of its actions, such as Uighur concentration camps, it faces internal unrest and possible revolt.


Soft power influence out and defensive action against influence in are two different ball games. Again, I'm not denying that the Chinese gov't is worried about a general miasmic incursion of foreign values, just that that's relatively low on their list of concerns. I think it once was a bigger deal to them, but they've since realized that it's not such a danger.

Thing number one is preventing their own citizens from communicating and organizing among themselves. Thing number two is the international soft-power push, mostly aimed at muddying the waters of public discourse enough that they are no longer the unquestionable bad guy (the goal here is simply to damp down international criticism). Preventing the spread of "Western democratic values" and "universal human rights" in China is a concern, but probably doesn't make third place, or even fourth.


I'm not sure that this is so accurate. GitHub is not blocked at all and neither was Reddit until recently. The recent "996" debacle on GitHub has demonstrated that Chinese people are able to "talk to each other" through these foreign sites with no trouble at all.


China (and a few other authoritarian countries) have blocked and attacked GitHub numerous times due to repos that are critical of the government or help bypass censorship (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_of_GitHub).

But blocking GitHub has proven to be very costly so they're often forced to revert the decision. That's why GitHub appear to be the perfect place to host and promote truthful content (e.g. wiki articles about tiananmen massacre, xijiang concentration camps, etc) along with detailed instructions to bypass censorship. Right now it appear that at best China can prevent a specific URL from being shared on weixin/weibo/etc but can't stop people from opening the repo if they find a creative way to share it after (e.g. put the link in an image and modify the image slightly to change its hash before sharing it).


[flagged]


This breaks the site guideline against insinuations of astroturfing. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and don't do that on HN.

More explanation and links in this post upthread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19538691.


GitHub was blocked in the past but it was unblocked after much protest from Chinese developers


It's incrementally more difficult to use GitHub outside normal working hours.


Then why would they sponsor Chinese owned media in London?


Maybe they're both right.


related:

> Reddit confirms $300M Series D led by China’s Tencent at $3B value

https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/11/reddit-300-million/


I'm increasingly concerned about this and so are others. I have never talked about my brother about this, but they had banned TikTok for their daughter because it was Chinese owned.


I mean, PRC occasionally threatens Taiwan and says they own/control them. Taiwan can/should protect itself in whatever way it sees fit(within reason). If that’s tech/media influence then so be it- they think that it is an issue.


> PRC occasionally threatens Taiwan

Dude, I'm 100% sure it's not 'occasionally'. The threaten is basically _everywhere_ around Taiwanese's life with _daily_ based frequency. But I totally agree with your opinion about Taiwan should protect themselves instead of fully relying on external forces like U.S or U.N


It was super intersting being in Taiwan and talking to people about their relationship with China. They do not feel they are Chinese subjects, but also largely seem to accept the practical position they are in.

Loved Taiwan, hope they get real independence some day.


I think you may have missed something when talking to them.

1) Taiwan is de-facto independent and PRC has 0 direct control over them.

2) The reason why Taiwanese passports say “Republic of China” is because they are also claiming to be the real Chinese government.


1) The PRC exerts indirect control over Taiwan's economy by pressuring its trading partners, so the distinction is academic.

2) That's a historic stance and not one claimed by most Taiwanese people today. Meanwhile, PRC passports devote a page to each province of China, including a page for Taiwan.


The distinction is far from academic.

China itself is Taiwan's top trading partner

https://www.trade.gov.tw/english/Pages/Detail.aspx?nodeID=94...

Followed by the US. China does not need to "pressure its trading partners".

Taiwan has its own currency, does not pay tax to the mainland, has a real democracy, and is an ally to the US.

Chinese passports can devote a page to whereever they want, it means nothing.

Interesting fact... phone numbers in the Taiwanese capital begin 02. That's because when the KMT invaded, they reserved 01 for Nanjing, their base of operations when they were the mainland government, and for whatever reason they wanted to believe they would be able to retake it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telephone_numbers_in_Taiwan#Ar...

Does this mean Taiwan owns Nanjing? :-) Nor does the passport page act as a deed of ownership for Taiwan...


And Taiwan isn't even one of China's top ten trading partners. So who has more power over the other?

The passport thing doesn't mean anything in and of itself. That's not the point.


You actually claimed:

>> The PRC exerts indirect control over Taiwan's economy by pressuring its trading partners, so the distinction is academic.

That's not what happens. What does happen is China pressures international bodies like the UN and the Olympic committee to pretend if they want to talk to Taiwan, they must talk to only China.

But it has mainly cosmetic effect... eg, despite all that effort, Taiwanese passports (not issued by China) are recognized almost everywhere except China

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan_passport#Limitations_in...

Of course the nuclear-armed mainland is bigger and scarier than a small island of 20-something million with only conventional forces. But China has not been suppressing Taiwan's trade as you wrongly said, it has been encouraging and benefitting from it to the point it's the #1 partner with double the value of the US.


China has more power, obviously, but most of their claims are purely cosmetic, since if they wanted to truly absorb Taiwan they can put a whole lot more pressure on Taiwan than

1) letting them open factories and conduct business in China

2) letting them visit and vacation in China

3) trade with China at all

If you want an example of an actual embargo check out Iran, Cuba, for great examples of pointless aggression (from the US).


Taiwan acts as an independent country. That's why they have independent elections for a president, etc. They have different beauractic bodies and welfare programs.

There are many more examples of how Taiwan is a separate country. The distinction is far from academic.


1) Such soft power is exerted by PRC everywhere in the region, and even against the US as exemplified by the trade "war" (it takes two to fight a war). If Taiwan was under the thumb of China then it wouldn't be able to, or need, to ban Chinese social media.

2) Same can be said for average PRC citizens too—they're not really day-to-day concerned about owning Taiwan. They often travel there for vacation too.


1) So why doesn't Taiwan have a seat at the UN?

2) That just indicates that the PRC will continue to exert soft power over Taiwan instead of something more overt.


They have real independence. I hope they get to keep it.


> PRC occasionally threatens Taiwan and says they own/control them

Huh? The PRC has said Taiwan and the mainland are one country since 1949, and the Taiwanese government has said the same since 1949. The previous Taiwanese president, Ma Ying-jeou, said this all the time.


PRC is threatening a military attack on Taiwan. Xi said so just a few weeks ago. I have never heard a similar statement from any Taiwanese politician in this century.

All that Taiwan wants is to stay independent and democratic.


> PRC is threatening a military attack on Taiwan. Xi said so just a few weeks ago.

Do you have a good source on this? I just searched it and DDG didn't come up with any news source I know is reputable. The first 5 links I get are: newsmax.com, news.com.au, theglobeandmail.com, france24.com, and tibetsun.com


Here is 习近平 himself saying so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iBJK-doMM4

"We do not promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option to use all necessary measures."


>the Taiwanese government has said the same since 1949

Taiwan has to say this. China views Taiwan relinquishing their claim to the mainland as a deceleration of independence and justification for invasion.


The issue is that the shows on iQiyi like Rap of China or Yanxi's Palace tend to be huge hits not only in China but also in places like Vietnam, Yanxi Palace was apparently the most Googled show in 2018 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Story_of_Yanxi_Palace). So banning them in Taiwan would probably just lead to Taiwanese audiences pirating the shows anyway.

Also these shows are actually broadcasted for free on the day that episode comes out which attracts huge crowds and buzz (although lots of ads) and you don't have to be a paying member or even a member to watch and they tend to be popular even among non-paying members so there are probably more watchers than the official 2 million daily active users.

Example of Yanxi Palace fame: https://sg.style.yahoo.com/singapore-actor-lawrence-wong-sen...

I'm pretty sure this move will hurt the DPP more than help.


Reddit is now suspect, after the major investment from PRC. I no longer visit there...

I wonder if the 50 cent party https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/50_Cent_Party is going to be involved in hacker news anytime soon...


[flagged]


Please don't break the site guidelines by insinuating astroturfing without evidence. Despite the countless accusations people have posted, we've never found any evidence of that on political topics—and we've looked closely. Meanwhile it's a toxic trope that poisons discussion, one that arises for psychological reasons rather than factual ones.

I've specifically written about this recently:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19485935

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19403438

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19404162

That last link is an example of how these accusations hurt the community and individuals.

Plenty more explanation here for anyone who wants it: https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20astroturfing&sort=by....


[flagged]


I (an American) ran into this. Centcom was (is?) doing things like whitewashing the No Gun Ri massacre on Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=No_Gun_Ri&diff=185... .

That IP used to resolve to n-mnstci-142.mnstci.iraq.centcom.mil . In my spare time I add information to Wikipedia, then I am taxed and some propaganda minister in the military, being paid by my taxes, gets rid of what I said and does some Orwellian rewrite if history.

These Chinese efforts seem skin to what the US government has been doing.


[flagged]


This breaks the site guideline against insinuations of astroturfing. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and don't do that on HN.

More explanation and links in this post upthread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19538691.


Risk is an insidious notion. You can justify any action by citing a potential risk. Ask yourself whether you would be okay with the United States blocking these sites.


I would love that. Baidu's servers (which they list only for use as web crawlers; and yes, on a number of address ranges with completely different initial bytes, not just one network Baidu might have sold off to a consumer ISP) regularly try to impersonate my email addresses, I know because I get the DMARC reports. If U.S. mailservers didn't see Baidu's dishonest connections, it would be less trouble to secure my email with mail hosts who are less diligent to avoid spam.

When I try to send email to the administrators of these networks, it is blackholed at the great firewall.

Furthermore, my personal website which only displays my personal contact information is blocked in China.

I can't do anything productive with Baidu, they are a net cost to me, while surely to them I'm a nobody.


> Baidu's servers (which they list only for use as web crawlers

Interesting, where does one go to check such a list of intended uses for a web server? Since Baidu has a cloud offering, the likeliest explanation is that the impersonation attempts are by spammers renting the servers from Baidu.

> Furthermore, my personal website which only displays my personal contact information is blocked in China.

Doesn't seem to be the case, unless I got the wrong website: https://en.greatfire.org/qui.suis.je


> Doesn't seem to be the case, unless I got the wrong website: https://en.greatfire.org/qui.suis.je .

That is interesting! I have some devices in Beijing and Shanghai, and I can't reach qui.suis.je from there anymore (I used to be able to). I was able to connect from Jiangsu for a week or so last month, but not since.


The Great Firewall is known to do packet inspection, so if you ever had a long-running SSH session with your server, they might have classified it as a homegrown VPN tunnel and banned it for you specifically. Or they're letting requests from greatfire.org through to make censorship harder to detect.


I'd be ok with it. In fact, I'm ok with China blocking our sites. Perfectly fine with me. China uses their sites to try to undermine the US. (And vice-versa I'm sure.)


Completely OK with it. I consider this on par with having fair import/export rules, which China does not.


China blocks anything is called censorship.

Block something from China is for security risk.

In the end everyone just block everyone?


That's.. not an argument. Of course if you omit the significant differences between two things they look the same.


In the end everyone making choices about what kind of relations they want to have is called discretion.


>In the end everyone just block everyone?...

Would that be so terrible? Used to be a lot of time the answer was just war. Well, now, if they can't get along on the playground, people just take their marbles and go home.

It's not so terrible when you consider the alternative.


I suppose you could argue something along the (slightly different) positions that nuclear weapons reduce the likelihood of interstate conflict, and tasers increase the use of police force -- i.e. when war was the only recourse, the result was no recourse, and we were better off.

Not convincing though IMO, but the point is pretty academic at this point so it's hard for me to say one way or another. Maybe we're all talking past each other? It's one thing to say that having recourse to block someone is good, but quite another to say that taking recourse to block someone is good.


The scale of the Chinese great firewall is rather unprecedented. Sites and keywords blocked, and homegrown sites have to follow constantly increasing filter lists and report users. Blocking a few sites is nothing in comparison to this.


China have not specified reasons for their blocking.

At least the Taiwanese authorities have.


If you are blocking rather relying on a strong base of educated voters, then are you any different from China, or have you essentially lost and have adopted your enemy’s ideals?


> If you are blocking rather relying on a strong base of educated voters, then are you any different from China, or have you essentially lost and have adopted your enemy’s ideals?

No. Strong bases of educated voters don't emerge fully-formed from the Earth or something. It takes time to develop them and in that time they're vulnerable.


I don't know why you're being downvoted. It's true, but the path to develop is littered with corruption, inefficiency, and general learn-from-mistakes policies.


Makes sense, China uses investments and media to alter perception of its policies abroad. The US and other Western nations block Chinese investment into infrastructure and tech, why not media as well?


Every sovereign country has a right to block companies based on their security risk assessment. In this case however, the given reasons sound a bit flaky. Would have almost been better if they gave no reason at all.


It's nice you are interested in this topic.

So why don't you look into it and make your opinion from the facts?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2018/12/18/chinas-in...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/22/world/asia/taiwan-electio...


decentralized will save the world from evil.


Taiwan blocking Chinese websites? Good.

China blocking Western websites? Bad.


> Taiwan blocking Chinese websites? Good.

> China blocking Western websites? Bad.

That analysis is so oversimplified that all the important factors have been left out of it.


When it really just means:

Human Rights and Rule of Law? Good.


It's bad when it's one way because the internet is supposed to be open. In this case, I am entirely for an eye-for-an-eye approach if it helps to show these companies what a level playing field is.


I feel that this is something many more countries across the world should do considering that equivalent Western services are blocked in China.




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