The Great Firewall: longer, higher, meaner

37 Comments

Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and more: all blocked in China
Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and more: all blocked in China
The already unfortunate situation of internet censorship in China – imposed by the so-called Great Firewall – has been slowly getting worse this year, making a mockery of claims that the Olympics would open up China in terms of allowing a greater spread of communication and discussion. This year the Great Firewall has metamorphosed from a paranoid bug into a malignant disease, a raging cancer, blighting creativity, free speech and the flow of ideas.

Just a few months ago I posted here on Lost Laowai about China’s massive web-filtering system, and how it was becoming distinctly anti-social in that it was targeting social-networking and web 2.0 sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, which are characterised by allowing a fast flow of information and ideas.

Bad news: that’s getting worse, and this time there’s no identifiable reason. Usually, a wave of tightening-up on the internet by the Chinese government comes immediately after some particular incident; we saw it right after the troubles in Tibet, then again in Xinjiang, and recurring at sensitive anniversaries. But, this summer, no clear justification for new blockages – it just seems to be malicious, and that makes it more sinister.

So, to add to lengthy list of blocked websites from earlier this summer (see the footnote, at the end of this post) we must now add a few more:

Vimeo
Friendfeed
Bit.ly (URL shortening service)
Post.ly (URL shortening service)
Blip.tv
Yahoo Meme
Google Documents (accessible again)
Fileden.com
iTweet.net (a twitter web app)
Twitzap (a twitter web app)
Dabr.co.uk (a twitter web app)
TwitterGadget (a tiny twitter app on iGoogle)

The situation really is getting ridiculous. A few other ways to access twitter still exist, thankfully. Just this afternoon one China-based expat on twitter commented that “China no longer has internet. It has LAN” (h/t @illuminantceo), which is an apt description of how insular and freaky it’s getting.

It’s not just an inconvenience to laowais, remember. Such a crackdown has economic repercussions for everyone in the country, as well as drastically stifling creativity and the sharing of ideas (those last two, obviously, are actual aims of the Chinese government who implement the Great Firewall). It’s impossible to quantify the economic damage done by this web-filtering, and it might even amount to quite little, but undeniably it costs a lot of companies extra time and frustration, and limits some companies in dealing with foreign clients and partners.

So, this second major wave of censorship is clearly aimed at slowing or stopping the flow of information and ideas. It’s visible, too, in the Chinese webosphere, where severe Terms of Service on websites or constant filtering of content means that ‘sensitive’ material is spotted and deleted (and the account removed) possibly within an hour of offending content being posted. Try putting up a sensitive video on Tudou or Youku, and see how long it lasts. Thus, Chinese websites don’t get blocked, as such, as there’s already that two-pronged devils fork of enforced compliance.

Foreign-based websites cannot be similarly coerced, so they just get blocked.

Even Virtual Private Networks are under stronger attack, as detailed quite recently by Rebecca Mackinnon (requires a proxy or VPN to access inside China).

Anger is clearly mounting over this. Right now, on twitter – despite there being fewer ways to access it – I can clearly see hundreds of tweets regarding the Great Firewall – labelled as #gfw and #fuckgfw – by younger tech-savvy Chinese people detailing sites that have been newly whisked away into purgatory, and also expressing a hell of a lot of anger aimed at the web-filtering system and the government in Beijing as well.

Just a few days ago, at the World Media Summit which was this year hosted in Beijing, China’s President Hu Jintao suggested “cooperation, action, win-win, and development,” in the realms of all world media, and called for “monitoring by the public and the safeguarding of the rights to be informed, to participation, to expression…..and their important functions put into play,” to an audience that included News Corporation CEO, Rupert Murdoch. If you’ve managed to avoid vomiting after such a display of hypocrisy, then you have a stronger stomach than I.

From where I’m standing, the Chinese government is failing its people with such extensive censorship; there’s a massive disparity between the kindness, good-natured openness and eagerness to learn of the Chinese people, and the paranoid, low-down, two-faced, narrow-minded bigotry of the Chinese government.

I’m ordinarily against intervention by foreign governments, but right now I’d love to see President Obama and some European leaders stand up – in the manner of John F. Kennedy Ronald Reagan on the Berlin Wall – and say “Tear down this Firewall.”

===

Footnote:

Here’s my previous block-list, from July 31st this year. All sites mentioned below except ‘blog.com’ seem to still be blocked.

Facebook
twitter
YouTube
Blogger blogs
Wordpress free blogs
Typepad blogs
Blog.com blogs
Opera blogs
Tumblr
LiveLeak
Google’s Picasa Web Albums (log-in accessible, but borked thereafter)
Google Image search results (very frequent re-set connections)
Orkut
Bebo

Talk on The Great Firewall: longer, higher, meaner


37 Comments
  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Great Firewall: longer, higher, meaner | Lost Laowai China Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Great summary of the main issues here. This whole situation depresses me more than anything. China could be so so much more without all this nonsense. You’d never believe it’s 2009. *sigh*

  3. Crap, when did Vimeo get blocked? I didn’t even hear about that. It was working for the great Guardian video of national day parade, do the censors mind foreign sites also posting national celebrations?

  4. In our increasingly collaborative, hive-minded world, an all pervading great firewall might hamper what China needs most: innovation. I kind-of hope it does.

    (Didn’t Reagan, not Kennedy, say “Tear down this wall!”?)

  5. On semi-related tangent, my wife had been having trouble calling people in Beijing (cell phone to calling card to land-line) for several weeks before National Day; she’d get endless ringing, while the people on the other end would pick up and hear nothing. Sometimes she’d finally get through after many, many tries, sometimes she’d eventually give up. I didn’t think too much of it at first, because she’d had a lot of problems with dropped calls in the past, but it did make me think about what I’d been reading about heavy security in Beijing, and the internet outage in Xinjiang shows they’re willing to take extreme measures if they think it necessary. But I generally dismissed this is paranoia. Then, the first time after ND that she called, a few days after, she was suddenly able to get through on the first try for the first time in at least 8 attempts or more, and hasn’t had problems since. Is this just a coincidence, or has anybody else experienced anything like this?

  6. Ah, dont be so pesimistic! It adds a bit of fun to the internet. Its like a game of cat and mouse. We find ways around the censorship, then they find ways to block us. We find new ways around it, they find ways to block it. We go back to the old ways that suddenly work again, then they chase right back and block it. Its good sport!

  7. This is getting out of control…

    There’s a great article at Chinasolved (http://www.chinasolved.com/blog/).. Be warned, it’s long, but it’s got a great perspective on what the business and creative aspects Steven talked about here.

    Also, google docs seems to be working for me… Any word from other people out there??

  8. @Iain Thanks for correcting my history slip-up. I’ll go in and amend it to ‘Reagan’ later!

    @Fink I’ll check out that article now. Indeed, Google Docs is back today, but it was definitely blocked all yesterday.

    @Stephen I’d say it’s more like Steve McQueen trying to escape the Nazis, rather than a “sport”. But each to their own ;)

  9. Google Documents are only blocked if you try to access via G-mail, but if you go to google.com and go to “Google Account Settings” in the top left you can still get at your Documents. This may not last for long, so I would recommend downloading anyhting particularly important while you still can.

  10. ….never mind my last post as I can now access Google Docs via G-mail, but if it ever gets blocked again try entering via the site’s main page. Sadly, that method doesn’t work for Blogger.

  11. Pingback: The Great Firewall of China Continues to Grow | The Blog Herald

  12. This blog is also blocked by GFW too. )-:

    I feel sorry for the GFW, since it’s a pity for our country. And I am also sad for GFW, since it makes me hard to surf online. But anyway, I think the situation will go on well soon, since NO CHINESE will allow the country go on bad.

  13. What worries me more than the GFW is how I am beginning to react to it. Apathy is creeping in, as it gets more and more difficult to access my favorite sites. Soon I just sigh and stop trying. The GFW has basically cured me of my addiction to Facebook, which could be a good thing in some ways, but shows how insidious the GFW is. In some ways it’s blunt force trauma to the head (hello, Google image search!), and other ways very subtly undermining your will to surf.

  14. From where I’m standing, the Chinese government is failing its people with such extensive censorship; there’s a massive disparity between the kindness, good-natured openness and eagerness to learn of the Chinese people, and the paranoid, low-down, two-faced, narrow-minded bigotry of the Chinese government.

    With idiotic statements like these, that’s why this site got blocked by the GFW.

  15. I thought there are tons of proxies readily available on internet. They are annoyingly slow and the reliability can’t be depended upon, but manage to provide a means of access at least. Did they stop working too?

  16. While I would like to be back in China, it seems I left at the right time. Only a couple months after I left most of those sites I use got blocked. After being home with so much accessibility (albeit slow thanks to Comcrap service) I might find it difficult to readjust to the censorship.

  17. @PH More than half of the free VPNs no longer work, and several paid VPNs experience slow-downs, or have several of their IP addresses blocked. I personally don’t yet use a paid VPN – so I’m just relating what others on twitter are saying.

    @pug_ster I’m curious in what way that statement of mine is idiotic. Or perhaps you means it’s idiotic that I posted it online, and that I ought to have… erm… self-censored!?

  18. email to ip@dongtaiwang.com,you will get freegate latest version.
    now 翻墙(suffering Beyond GFW)is becoming a basic net skill for Chinese netizen.I have tested,Twitter is OK,mail me if you need help.bigasshole#163.com

  19. The GFW actually creates more problems than it is intended to solve. It creates more anger and dissent. It creates more obstacles to trade and discussion of ideas, yet at the same time increases and furthers more bad-mouthing of China. It makes the government look stupid, scared, paranoid and childish as well as being totalitarian. It does nothing to encourage trade and business, if anything it scares investors, expats, foreign experts and others away. I shall finish my contract within 7 months. I shall not renew it. Indeed I relish and look forward to leaving this country run by a backward looking “bunch of goons” to coin a phrase. The people, the ordinary citizen, for the most part are great, welcoming and friendly. I have much sympathy for them as they cannot up and leave.

  20. Pingback: Observing China's Great Firewall - Trends, Impressions & Impact

  21. @gregorylent Zuosa is fine, because it self-censors, just like any other Chinese website (my interview w/ the Zuosa CEO is here: http://asia.cnet.com/blogs/sinobytes/post.htm?id=63014233 – Shameless self-plug; sorry!)

    @tvnewswatch Good comment, and entirely agree.

    @Claus Nehmzoq Probably stems from the Google Apps hosting, yes. Similarly with many wordpress sites with a custom URL such as the lolcat site icanhascheezburger.com which is blocked in China: a perfect symbol of how ludicrous this can all get.

    @susan I’ve heard that 12VPN, ExpressVPN, and Witopia are pretty good. There are others, so shop around based on price.

  22. I stopped using the free VPNs, too reliable and slow. I ‘ve been very happy with freedur and their customers service is superb.

  23. I’m using Strong VPN since a month now, very fast and working fine. Got blocked once, but I could change the server, now working fine. I recommend the 12$ PPTP service. FYI, the link is a referral, I get a free month or something if you sign up.

  24. Ironically, or perhaps not, this post is blocked in China.

    China has ‘upgraded’ the firewall recently, making it more annoying than ever.

    You can still get free VPN and proxies that work though, if you look hard enough.

  25. Pingback: firewall blocking internet access | FIREWALL

  26. Nevermind that there is absolutely NO internet access in Xinjiang, with no end in sight. They kept saying that maybe it would be restored after National Day, but that didn’t happen, and now they’re saying maybe Spring Holiday. But no one knows, really.

  27. Steven,

    Just signed up for a pr-xy and am now able to read your blog again. Now that this site is already blocked in China again, how about you or Ryan reposting that stuff on Chris Devonshire-Ellis? I never got to read it.

    Best,
    Jeff

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