Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Effective Internet control

Let's be clear. The Chinese government works hard to make it difficult for people in China to freely access information. And, others in China work hard to make that information more accessible.

Leaping the wall
WiTopia… provides ways of bypassing blocks imposed by internet firewalls. Like others that help people in China escape internet censorship, it has recently found its services disrupted by what looks like a new kind of attack by China’s censors.

Since the Arab awakening, officials have gone to lengths to stop dissidents from trying to foment similar unrest at home. Controls on people attempting to “leap the wall”, as internet users describe the process of evading their censors’ firewall, have got tighter… It marks a change of tactic by China’s internet police. For years they have largely turned a blind eye to paid-for services, such as WiTopia’s, which provide virtual private networks (VPNs) enabling encrypted connections to the many websites blocked by the firewall. Such VPNs are mainly used by foreigners in China, less likely to be trouble-stirrers. (Fee-free VPNs are routinely blocked.)...

China’s new tactic, as far as experts can guess, is to make the use of Gmail and paid-for VPN services more inconvenient, but not to cut off access altogether. Google says the government is disrupting its e-mail service, while making it look as if the problem lies with Gmail. Users in China are having intermittent problems accessing the Gmail service…

How Chinese circumvent 'firewall' online
A former student in one of my comparative politics classes, now a CNN reporter in Beijing, demonstrates, in this video, how a VPN provides access to the Internet for someone in China. Of course, she's a foreigner in Beijing, not a citizen.

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