For this week’s writings, I read an article from the Washington Post entitled “China’s scary lesson to the world: Censoring the Internet works.” The article in question was a very well written article, as one can expect from a major newspaper, on how china’s “Great Internet Firewall” is not only refusing to go down, but is instead being strengthened daily by the government, and, in short, preventing citizens from viewing material the government deems unsuitable. The argument given is that something most people thought would be only a temporary measure, and that free flow of information would bring about a change for democracy within China, the government has only succeeded in censoring the internet and has turned it into “a tool for control, surveillance, and commercial considerations,” however this is not the full story, and nor is it the full truth of the firewall.
In China, if a user were to search a blacklisted term on the internet, such as persecution, the browser would open a blank screen with the message “page cannot be displayed”. This page is rather commonplace in China and usually indicates that the term is something that falls under the firewall that the Chinese government maintains. This is not the only form of control that the firewall maintains, as the Chinese government also has state sponsored knockoff versions of various social media websites. These sites allow Chinese citizens to have a Chinese only version of sites such as Facebook and Twitter, while being monitored by the government. On top of all these control methods being made, the firewall is also working on shutting down various VPN sites and programs that can be used by citizens to circumvent the firewall’s settings. From the outside, it truly does look like the Chinese Firewall is not only working, but is here to stay for good, but even now to this day the fight is far from over, and the citizens are far from cooperating with the government.
Through various means available to them, a large number of Chinese citizens have found ways to evade the censors and get around the firewalls, through the help of several hacktivists based in the US, China, and other countries. Some of the methods being used are VPNs, tunneling, temporary IP addresses, Code word searches, a special program named Freegate that searches the firewall for vulnerabilities, and even putting spaces in between letters of words. For example, just a few days ago, China’s most prominent political prisoner, Liu Xiaobo died. In the aftermath, the government was running all hands-on deck trying to stifle any and all discussions of him online, however every time the censors blocked a new term, several more would take its place. The citizens were working together to evade the censorship faster than the government could respond. Proving that while the government can try to stop the flow of information, people will always find ways around, and free information will always get through. So, while the firewall may seem strong today, it is only a matter of time until the wall comes crumbling down