As Internet users in China have reported, scaling the Great Firewall of Internet censorship by using VPNs has become increasingly difficult in recent weeks, with several of the most reliable services being blocked. As the Australian reports:
The Great Firewall – the country’s huge system of internet limits and censorship – now appears to be stepping up targeting of virtual private networks, or VPNs, commonly used to circumvent controls on websites the government considers threatening.
While VPNs let users gain access to sites blocked by the Firewall due to their content or sensitivity – which in China include Facebook and Twitter – they are also vital to firms, enabling secure and encrypted communications.
In the globalised economy companies have flocked to China to try to participate in decades of stunning growth.
But web users are complaining of VPNs being inaccessible or quickly going down once accessed, while speeds have slowed to a crawl.
Authorities have also indicated recently that the use for foreign VPNs is illegal. The New York Times blog reports:
At least three foreign companies — Astrill, WiTopia and StrongVPN — have apologized to customers whose virtual private networks, or VPNs, have been slowed or disabled. VPNs are used to circumvent the Communist government’s firewall. The companies, meanwhile, were suggesting some work-arounds.
The daily newspaper Global Times, affiliated with the Communist Party, acknowledged the firewall had been “upgraded,” but it also warned that foreign providers of VPN services were operating illegally.
China blocks online searches of politically sensitive terms, smothers embarrassing news events, blocks online messages from dissidents and simply deletes any microblog posts that it dislikes.
The firewall also blocks countless Web sites that are openly available to users elsewhere around the world — from pornography sites and commercial come-ons to news reporting, political activism and religious
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