“He who controls information controls the world.”
These words have never been truer in the current case of the Chinese government and their ongoing attempts to censor the flow of information into China.
PCworld released an article yesterday detailing how several companies that run VPNs (virtual private network) have seen their clients lose access to the services. VPN access has always been an issue in China as the Chinese government requires companies that provide VPN service to register with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Unregistered VPN services do not gain the protection of Chinese law.
Access to a VPN is important for a lot of Chinese citizens. It not only allows them access to information, but also world-wide news, which are both heavily censored by the Chinese government.
The method of blocking that the Chinese government uses to put the kibosh on VPNs seems complex. Reporting on the same VPN block issue, the Global Time pulled an interesting quote from one of the founders of a company that monitors the internet in China. He elaborates,”The Great Firewall is blocking the VPN on the protocol level. It means that the firewall does not need to find each VPN provider and block its IP addresses. Rather, it can spot VPN traffic during transit and block it.”
The interruptions in service seem to be intermittent. One VPN provider mentioned in the article had indicated that “…the list of sites affected is changing and sites that might work one day are failing the following day.” Some of these sites include news outlets like BBC, the blogging platform WordPress and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Regulating the flow of information for some 600 million internet users is not an easy task, but it should come as no surprise that the VPN blocks are related to the Golden Shield project.
After the banning of the China Democracy Party in 1998, the Chinese government initiated the Golden Shield Project (a.k.a. “Great Firewall of China”). Since it’s completion in 2008, the Golden Shield Project has incorporated a number of methods for blocking content which include IP blocking, DNS filtering and redirection, URL filtering, packet filtering and several others.
What do you guys think of this situation and the effects it has had on Chinese citizen’s ability to access information outside of China?