A trending and vastly expanding GitHub database where Chinese developers have been airing their workplace grievances may be at risk of censorship. A number of internet users in China have reported seeing their access to the database cut off when using browsers offered by companies like Tencent, Alibaba, Xiaomi, and Qihoo 360, as first spotted by Abacus . Some of the companies that have reportedly blocked access to the GitHub repository are also the same ones being accused of encouraging their employees to work grueling a 12- hour days, six days a week without a sufficient overtime pay, and a coincidence that Chinese developers have been quick to point out. Alibaba's UC Browser has been screened as blocking the database and Alibaba's name has come up in worker accusations. Alibaba did not respond to comment.
"There is illegal information on the website you are currently visiting. Please close the page, "and a warning on the 360 Browser reads, according to GitHub user ilaotan. A second user responded, "Looks like all Chinese domestic browsers have restrictions in place. Someone will not let you access the page, others block you from starring the page. " The Verge attempted to verify if the 360 Browser was indeed censored and found that while the repository was accessible, the star feature was blocked. Qihoo 360 did not respond to a request for comment.
Another developer wrote on GitHub, "Use Chrome, never use that kind of garbage," referring to some of the affected browsers' reputations for potential security issues. It seems that the browser block is inconsistently reported among users, with some saying they are able to access the 996.IU repository through 360 Browser and Xiaomi's MIUI browser, while others confirm that they can not access the database through most domestic browsers.
Tencent's QQ Browser reportedly restricts access, but allows users to enter the page if they insist. Still, one user screenshoted a page from Tencent stating: "This page has been discontinued. According to user complaints and the Tencent Security Response Center, this page contains illegal or transgressive content. "Tencent did not respond to a request for comment
One source told The Verge that the browser block would probably be the result of an individual company decisions aimed at quashing criticisms, rather than an order from the Chinese government, as the block only targets a single page instead of a full domain. A browser-level block of a single offending GitHub repository could be a clever way for Chinese tech companies to remove controversial material while the main GitHub platform remains accessible. It's not an ideal situation for companies if GitHub were to go down in China.
"GitHub is widely used by programmers in China for professional reasons. Getting browsers to block it – especially those on mobile phones like Xiaomi – might be a way around this challenge, "explains Sarah Cook, Freedom House's senior research analyst for East Asia. "It may be a way of limiting the negative political impact without incurring the collateral damage to IT innovation that a full block would impose."