Great Firewall of China

Tuesday, March 27, 2007 at 4:34 | Posted in Blogosphere, censorship, China, Freedom of speech, internet | 12 Comments

It is more or less common knowledge in the Cyber World that China is protecting its citizens from the harmful effects of free speech by massively censoring the Internet. I discovered through this anonymous news blog that there is a web site calling themselves Great Firewall of China which says it is performing a live test on any URL in the World to show if that site is accessible in China or not. According to the site, they have a test server in China to be connected during the live test.

As the picture above shows, this blog is blocked in China, according to the Great Firewall of China. Another test showed that I am not alone: all of the WordPress.com seems to be blocked. I also detected that the blogging engine of Blogger.com seems to be available while the blogs hosted in Blogspot.com are blocked.

Since the mirror site of my Estonian blog is hosted by WordPress.com it is also blocked but the blog itself, hosted in an Estonian server, is readily available. I guess this just shows the scale of the Chinese censors. They block large areas of the Internet without paying much notice to the content censored.

Obvious blocks are placed upon Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders while the International Federation of Journalists web site seems to be available. Available are also the sites of US Senate, White House and The European Union. The official site of the President of Estonia seems to be accessible as well as the personal site of Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany.

While China seems to be afraid of bloggers hosted by major blogging services, the self hosted blogs that I checked out seemed to be accessible. This goes at least for RA-Blog, Dreibeinblog, Farliblog, Christian in Vienna and Mein Parteibuch. The Great Firewall itself was unable to load Schott’s Blog although the blog was accessible for me during the test.

Precisely the fact that the Firewall does not seem to be able to load some sites made me a bit suspicious. GMail should not be that difficult to reach if the site indeed operates in the Netherlands as this WHOIS query suggests. Entering http://mail.google.com produces this error message: “This page does not exist or could not be tested due to technical reasons!” Fishy, I say! I certainly hope that the recorded queries do not land down on the table of the censors to assist them block further sites.

Be it as it may, the censoring itself is an effort bound to be wasted in the long run. You can only protect a billion people from the truth so much. If China used the same energy to block Chinese spammers from submitting entries to WordPress hosted blogs as they use for censoring the contents of those blogs, the Internet would be a much better place to surf in.

12 Comments »

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  1. I think they search for some specific keywords and block the site if they find words like “china, protest, censoring” and other political related words. I don’t think they can control any site on web for critical content.

  2. Humans definitely do not read and analyze individual sites, that is most likely done by robots based on key words as you suggest. Another method is blocking large domains such as WordPress.com. Sites in English are most likely to get hit by the key word search as contents in English would be understood by the largest number of people in China.

  3. To circumvent he great firewall of China, the psiphon proxies seems to be really nice.

    Though, that some people using the psiphon proxies of volunteers especially for viewing porn or child porn, was probably not the intention of the Soros foundation, who financed it.

  4. I use blogger from google. And my Chinese friends have to use the additional anonymus url. Few chinese have also a blogspot url and blog, sometimes it works sometimes it’s blocked. Very confusing. Sometimes they cannot open urls I have send via mail. No system. Just chaos.

  5. I wonder if the tools mentioned in Marcel’s comment could be helpful fo Blogger users. And maybe they could try using the Inblogs Slap the Block tool which was a gift of Pakistani bloggers to Indian bloggers to overcome the curfew against Blogger.com in India

  6. Another site where you can check if any blog or website is blocked from China is http://www.websitepulse.com/help/testtools.china-test.html

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