Great Firewall of China getting smarter 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — A few days ago, I was Skyping with my friend in Ukraine. Today, my neighbors told me Skype was down, and sure enough, when I tried it, Skype couldn’t connect. Since the Internet isn’t reporting a worldwide Skype outage, it appears China’s net nannies are blocking Skype now. Why? Because they can. Skype joins the ranks of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, The New York Times and Bloomberg.com, among others. Some are blocked because of political reasons — The Times and Bloomberg have reported on the vast wealth of China’s new leaders, and YouTube is full of pro-Tibet and Falun Gong videos. Others are blocked to benefit their homegrown competitors — Facebook and Twitter could compete with China’s QQ and Sina Weibo. China offers its own “flavor” of Skype, which is jimmied to allow China’s Internet watchdogs to spy on your conversations. My copy of Skype comes from the USA, so maybe the watchdogs are only blocking that flavor. I’ll be damned if I download the Chinese version, though. China’s net nannies are getting smarter, as Philip Shishkin reports at i-policy.com. My VPN provider, a major player in the market, explained in an e-mail that the disruption was due ...

Anonymous strikes hundreds of Chinese websites 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Anonymous China (@AnonymousChina) has reportedly defaced more than 480 government and commercial websites in China in the last week, and has published user account information and emails from some. The attacks are continuing even today. This site was just defaced: http://tygtzy.gov.cn/index_en.htm. The attacks came from out of the blue, but follow the recent government crackdown on Chinese microblog (weibo) sites, whose users must now reveal their real names to retain their accounts. Six vocal weibo users have been arrested, as well. As reported by the BBC and ZDNet, Anonymous China dropped its own index page into at least 485 websites across China, beginning the end of March. AnonymousChina has posted the list of the attacked sites at pastebin.com. I did a spot check of some sites, and most were back online and seemingly normal. A few gave error 404 pages or MySQL server errors. A separate pastebin page (Message from @AnonymousChina – #GlobalRevolution) gives the reasons for the attacks. Hello, we are Anonymous. All these years the Chinese Government has subjected their people to unfair laws and unhealthy processes. People, each of you suffers from tyranny of that regime. Fight for justice, fight for freedom, fight for ...

Protestor throws shoe at creator of the Great Firewall

JISHOU, HUNAN — Fang Binxing was lecturing at Wuhan University in Hubei (about eight hours from here) when a member of the audience throw two shoes and an egg at him. One shoe connected, it seems. Fang is the architect of China’s pervasive net-nanny system that controls what Chinese can see on the Internet, and what content is allowed on Chinese websites. It’s popularly called the Great Firewall of China. Needless to say, Fang is none too popular among Chinese Internet users. Predictably, tweets about the shoe attack were promptly blocked, as were web searches for the person documenting the prank. The BBC has a more complete report. In the interests of global understanding, perhaps George W. Bush can give Fang lessons on shoe-ducking.

All play and no work makes Jack a dull boy?

JISHOU, HUNAN — I am one happy camper tonight, because I discovered how to circumvent China’s blocking of Picasaweb. The solution was right there in front of me, if I had bothered to look. In their ineffable wisdom, the wonks at Google allow you to upload photos to Picasaweb via email. All you need to do is go to Picasaweb’s settings and set up a secret email addy. Then you can emails to that address with photos as attachments. The subject line is the name of an existing album. Sweet! Because China is blocking Picasaweb and Blogger, both Google services, I have had a hell of time uploading to my Picasaweb albums. For a while, I could upload using Picasa 3, the desktop application, then mysteriously uploads would constantly fail. Either the uploads would stall, or I would get the message, “This account is not enabled for web albums.” First, I suspected a bug in Picasaweb (like THAT would ever happen!), but it appears some service or port is being blocked by the Great Firewall of China. I can use the latest version of Ultrasurf (v.9.98) to climb the Great Firewall, and access Picasaweb to edit photos and such, but ...

The randomness of inaccessibility

UPDATE 28/7/2010 11:25 am: And now everything is back to “normal.” But Firefox went south on me, Winamp got trapped in a loop somehow, and even taskmgr couldn’t kill it. After I shut down the computer, and restarted, the “blocked” sites listed below were accessible again. So I laid blame on the Great Firewall, but maybe it was my laptop or Vista Home edition. JISHOU, HUNAN — Yesterday, I could access a whole slew of my favorite websites. Today, I can’t. I blame the Great Firewall of China. In fact, my own website (this one) is now blocked. I am using the Ultrasurf proxy to climb the Great Firewall just to post this. And to aggravate me even more, Wikipedia seems also to be blocked, just as I was beginning the last phase of a long term project to edit Wiki entries about locations in Hunan, using my students’ research papers as the sources. I managed to edit the Jishou entry two days ago. Now, I’ll have to use the proxy to continue. Here’s a partial list of what I could access yesterday, but cannot today. www.nytimes.com my.yahoo.com www.liitlegreenfootballs.com wheatdogg.computernewbie.info — MINE! and thereby cpanel access en.wikipedia.org www.sadlyno.com questionablecontent.net — ...

Great Firewall now blocks Tor proxies: bye-bye Facebook 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — It was bound to happen someday. I am now completely shut off from Facebook. So if you want to communicate with me, either use my blog here, IM me or send me an email. China started blocking Facebook (and other sites) about a year after I arrived. Until recently, I had been able to use the Tor proxy network to “climb the firewall” and access Facebook. China’s net nannies had been blocking the IP addresses of public Tor connections, but I was able to get private bridge IPs by email. Now even the private bridge connections don’t work. My Tor’s log reports “problem bootstrapping. Stuck at 5%” and there it stays. Apparently, China’s censors have found a way to render the Tor proxy network ineffective, thereby shutting us netizens in China out of the wider WorldWide Web. Internet restrictions here typically get more severe as we approach significant anniversaries, such the Tiananmen Square protests by university students on June 5, 1989. In fact, I just discovered that just trying to visit sites (wikipedia, bbc.co.uk, etc.) that discuss the events is useless. It seems those are being blocked, too. Sigh. Perhaps the blocks will be removed after the ...

The Goo-Goo-Googly mess 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — Google and China have had a bit of a falling-out, as you may have heard. Google has relocated its China-based search services to autonomous Hong Kong and the mainland has responded by apparently blocking access to www.google.com — the US-based site. All I know is, I cannot browse to www.gmail.com now to check my email. On one hand, it’s not a big deal; I can still use IMAP access and Mozilla Thunderbird to handle my email. On the other hand, I’ve now lost easy access to all the contact lists I had created for my classes. To get to them, I will either have to use the Tor proxy network to climb over the Great Firewall of China, or replicate the lists using Thunderbird or another unblocked webmail account. Here’s a recap of the Google mess, if you haven’t been following it closely. China requires foreign companies to abide by national laws, so Google had to agree to filter its search engine and search results to eliminate, among other things, risqué photos, porn and politically sensitive sites. Google took some heat stateside for its acquiescence to the restrictions, but Google’s leadership said it was a business decision. ...

China adds another layer of bricks to the Great Firewall 4

JISHOU, HUNAN — With the National Holiday fast upon us, China’s net nannies have blocked yet another Internet service, the Tor proxy network, which had been pretty reliable until quite recently. China typically blocks access to the World Wide Web around important national holidays, such the 60th anniversary of the founding the People’s Republic of China next Thursday. With so many sites blocked already (YouTube, Facebook, Blogspot, to name but a few), I guess the censors decided the surest way to cut off potentially inflammatory websites was to choke the Tor network off. Of course, there are ways around the newest layer of bricks in the Great Firewall of China. I noticed something was fishy when I tried to connect to Facebook using Tor. My Tor client couldn’t complete the connection to the network. My little onion stayed yellow, and never went to green. Tor uses a decentralized network of proxies scattered around the world. The Tor client checks a list of active proxies (computers acting as go-betweens), then logs into the network using one or more of the proxies. An add-on to Firefox then switches Firefox over to use the proxy to access the WWW. An active Tor connection ...

Part of my ever-expanding Web empire 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — Since the Great Firewall of China has inexplicably blocked Picasaweb, where I host most of my photos from China, I have signed up with Flickr. So far, Flickr is not blocked {cross fingers}, so my Chinese friends can see my photos. I paid for additional storage on Picasaweb, so I can upload most of photos there for posterity, but I am not yet going to shell out $25 to get extra space on Flickr. I’m hoping China’s net nannies will relent, and let Chinese netizens access Picasaweb again. Flickr allows 100 MB a month for free, so I have uploaded my pix from the July 22 solar eclipse. I’ve included a sample here to pique your curiosity.

The Great Firewall now blocks Facebook 4

JISHOU, HUNAN — Sometime in the last week, China’s Internet gatekeepers decided to block Facebook, thereby cutting off my students (and thousands of other Chinese users) from communicating with their Facebook pals. I can still use FB, but now I have to go through the Tor proxy network. Whatta pain. China’s net nannies have been on a campaign recently to lock down the Internet, obstensibly to shut off access to pornography, but coincidentally to limit access to sites critical of the government. Given the recent riots in Xinjiang between Muslim Uighurs and local Han (the ethnic majority in China), one can only guess why Facebook has been banned here. The media site, www.danwei.com, is now also blocked, too. Danwei’s writers are openly critical of Internet censorship in China, and provide links to news sites that are less biased than the official government sources. For example, if you believe CCTV-9, the international arm of the state TV media, everything is just peachy keen in Xinjiang, where more than 150 people were killed earlier this month and where the army is patrolling the streets to prevent more outbreaks of ethnic violence. CCTV-9 interviewed a Westerner who teaches at a university in Urumqi, ...

China continues its censorship of Web by blocking Google.com 3

[UPDATE June 25 15:56: Google.com is once again available in China, for now. I’m leaving this post up, though.] JISHOU, HUNAN — Sometime this evening, the Chinese net nannies blocked access to Google.com, part of the government’s ever continuing struggle to combat (officially) pornography and (unofficially) access to sites critical of the government. True to form, the state’s censors are using Google as a poster child to warn those who might want to buck the censors. CCTV, the state-run television, had a report earlier this week blaming Google for “providing ‘vulgar and unhealthy’ content.” The report featured an interview with a young man — later discovered to be a CCTV intern — who said his roommate had become addicted to porn thanks to Google’s help. State censors then blocked the intern’s name (Gao Ye 高也) from permissible searches at Google China, the Chinese (net nannied) version of Google.com. Google.cn apparently agreed last week to restrict access to porn, so we can still use it. But, the Great Firewall of China is now blocking the international site,Google.com, which joins youtube.com, blogger.com and blogspot.com on the no-no list. Experts suggest that the government’s anti-porn crusade is a smokescreen to block access to ...

China restores access to livejournal.com, other sites still blocked

JISHOU, HUNAN — Ever since I arrived here last fall, China’s net nannies have blocked Livejournal, the popular blog site. Mysteriously, today, I was able to visit my daughter’s blog with no problems. WordPress.com is also now accessible. Just last week, it wasn’t. Even more strange, I was briefly able to access a blogger.com site, then promptly lost that ability. The Great Firewall has been blocking blogger.com and blogspot.com for a couple of weeks now. Youtube.com, alas, remains verboten.
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