Rebecca MacKinnon: China’s Censorship Blowback

Here is Rebecca MacKinnon’s post on her RConversation blog:


So far this week we’ve seen the temporary blocking of and related services hosted outside of China including GMail. As if that wasn’t bad enough for one week, we’re now told that sexual health websites are a no-go for ordinary Internet users.

Meanwhile, the increased discussion of censorship all over the Chinese Internet is prompting China’s netizens to educate themselves about the various technical methods to “jump over” the “great firewall.” There are no hard and fast statistics on how many people in China are now using proxy servers, Tor, Psiphon, Freegate/Dynaweb, or OpenDNS as compared to a month ago. But based on the frequent mentions of these tools I’ve been seeing every day on blogs, in Twitter, and on other social networking sites, it seems that the latest Net Nanny follies have helped raise awareness of circumvention tools to a whole new level. If you plug the term 翻墙 (which means “scale the wall” – the most common Chinese euphemism for censorship circumvention) into Google’s search insights and restrict it to searches coming from China, you see a big spike in early June and a bigger spkie in the past few days (click to enlarge):


Searches for Tor (a nonprofit tool for anonymizing and circumvention) are also substantially up this month, and Chinese-language searches originating in China for Freegate (a tool developed and operated by a FLG-affiliated organization) spiked dramatically over the weekend.Meanwhile a group of anonymous Chinese Netizens have issued an open letter, vowing to take collective actionon July 1st. It’s not clear exactly what they will do, other than to say: “we are going to acquaint your censorship machine with systematic sabotage and show you just how weak the claws of your censorship really are. We are going to mark you as the First Enemy of the Internet.”

The following paragraph is particularly interesting. They claim they’re not interested in overthrowing the government; but the government is bringing on its own punishment for behaving in such a stupid manner:

NOBODY wants to topple your regime. We take no interest whatsoever in your archaic view of state power and your stale ideological teachings. You do not understand how your grand narrative dissipated in the face of Internetization. You do not understand why appealing to statism and nationalism no longer works. You cannot break free from your own ignorance of the Internet. Your regime is not our enemy. We are not affiliated in any way with any country or organization, and we are not waging this war on any country or organization, not even on you. YOU are waging this war on yourself. YOU are digging your own grave through corruption and antagonization. We are not interested in you, destined for the sewage of history. You cannot stop the Internetization of the human race. In fact, we won’t bat an eyelid even if you decide to sever the transpacific information cables in order to obtain the total control you wanted. The harder you try to roll back history, the more you strain the already taut strings, and the more destructive their final release. You are accelerating your own fall. The sun of tomorrow does not shine on those who are fearing tomorrow itself.


A full translation of the 2009 Declaration of the Anonymous Netizens is available on Global Voices.


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