Tiananmen Square, Chinese Repression, and VPN
Now, apparently in fear of repeated protests, China is taking action. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have long been targeted by the Chinese government as tools protesters use to communicate and spread dissent. And Tumblr has now been made inaccessible in China as well.
GreatFire.org, is a non-profit that monitors censorship, and first spotted the lockdown of Tumblr by the Chinese government. GreatFire.org’s web analyzer shows that access to Tumblr has been limited in China since May 25, 2016, with complete roadblocks on several days.
Why? Well, the Chinese government doesn’t issue press releases about what it censors and why, so one can only speculate. It is known that social media and online searches in China are historically limited each year around anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Their goal is apparently to keep discussion and passion about government repression from spreading.
Families of those massacred and arrested in Tiananmen Square accused the Chinese government of intimidation. Calls from activists for pro-democracy demonstrations on social media caused Tumblr to be blocked in 2011 as well, though Tumblr has usually avoided such oversight.
One solution that has worked well for Chinese citizens intent on expressing their free will has been VPN services. And while the government of China may have great luck with banning online porn, VPN has been tougher to police. After all, a quality VPN service makes it very, very hard to track down the user as their IP address is rendered completely anonymous, their communications encrypted, and their location 100% unknown. The approach to VPN restrictions requires a more sophisticated approach to avoid unwanted restrictions on other internet traffic.
The Chinese government threatens and actually does succeed with at least a partial crackdown on VPN services: a number of VPN services reported lengthy outages and confirmed particularly sophisticated attacks that were thought to be from authorities in China.
But for now, those looking for the freedom to see what they want, say what they want, and to and from whom they wish to communicate must rely on VPN as their best bet to allow them to do it. The Great Firewall of China will try to repress– but if history shows anything, it’s that freedom over time is hard to stamp out.
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