Censorship Provokes Cracks in China’s Great Firewall

The Los Angeles Times reports on the myriad creative ways China’s Internet users have to circumvent official censorship:

if cyber censorship in China is a never-ending game of cat-and-mouse, the mice are multiplying fast. Despite increasingly aggressive government measures to tighten the flow of information and to snoop on suspected dissidents, China’s resourceful netizens are finding ways to evade the country’s Internet restrictions.

Known as fanqiang, or “scaling the wall,” these work-arounds typically involve tapping into remote servers located outside China that aren’t subject to Chinese government control. Although these skills are largely the province of tech-savvy Chinese bloggers and students, word is spreading fast about how to gain access to taboo sites.

If Google does end up leaving China, experts said, it could be a pyrrhic victory for Beijing. The company’s warning that it will exit the country rather than be party to more censorship has won praise among some Internet users here. Millions who once relied on the search engine’s services may become more defiant of government controls and more motivated to learn how to get around the Great Firewall.

And recent crackdowns on social networking sites appear to be alienating some ordinary Chinese who previously showed little concern about the government’s efforts to limit their access to pornography or politically sensitive material.

“The best censorship is the censorship you don’t know about. But with all the recent troubles, it’s becoming more public,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at UC Berkeley. “That undermines the goal of censorship itself. It’s converting more and more people.”

See also “Scaling the Digital Wall in China” from the New York Times.

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