Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Great Firewall Workarounds

Yesterday saw a great article in the Wall Street Journal about ways and means for Chinese citizens to circumvent China's Great Firewall. The article describes in detail the world of 'hacktivists', groups and individuals who dedicate time and resources to help Chinese surfers access blocked sites, or post information to the Web when own their site has been blocked. (Paid access)

Turns out, there's a whole lot of tools out there for the dedicated surfer, even the politically uninvolved one since the Great Firewall blocks more than only sensitive websites such as Falung Gong, blogging sites such as anything that ends with*.blogspot.com (but funny enough not Blogger.com itself), and news sites such as the venerable BBC. Apart from those the block also covers sites useful to innocent students just trying to do their homework, such as Wikipedia.

For those who can't afford (or have no access to) the WSJ archive, here's a list of of workarounds for those living in China and needing access to the real WWW, as opposed to the WWWACSI (World Wide Web As China Sees It):

Freegate (Mandarin only), a software tool that connects you to an ever-changing set of relay servers that allow you to access blocked sites 'from outside China', as if it where;
Ultra Reach, a company that provides tools similar to Freegate's, plus anti-filtering email services;
The Circumventor, a clever little tool that needs to be installed on a computer outside China, which then can be used as an access point for the rest of the Web;
Tor, a collection of tools that lets users publish web sites and other services without revealing the location of their sites;
Garden Networks (Mandarin only), a website with tips&tools like FreeSurf and UltraSurf;
Dynamic Internet Technology, the company that runs Freegate also has a useful website with lots of information how the censors work, among other things something that looks like a China's Great Firewall for Dummies presentation;
Adopt a Blog, a group of people who set up blogs on behalf of Chinese bloggers who are barred from setting up a blog of their own, posting stuff they receive via alternative channels.

Meanwhile, let's just hope that Google is right when they assume that their move into China with self-censored services helps to increase the amount of information available to Chinese surfers, rather than merely institutionalizing censorship and creating a viable business model for the Chinese censors.

I guess we haven't seen the last of this.


Anonymous said...

some search engines are taking a different route. you should see what dumbfind has to say on the matter.

Anonymous said...

Check out www.proxydom.com to access blocked sites.