Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

War against censorship: Never surrender

Illustration: MaryAnne Bowen

I never had convenient access to Twitter, Facebook or Youtube for nearly two years before I came to Whitman College this fall. To access these websites, I had to use a special software called “FreeU,” and even though I could open website pages, sending a comment and video would take forever because it takes a long time to climb over the Great Fire Wall (GFW).

The GFW is a powerful tool called for by the Chinese government and invented in 1998. Since then, the Chinese government has been using the GFW to monitor and filter information on the internet. Any anti-government or anti-communism content is interfered with and blocked. There are many ways the GFW operates to censor the internet: filtering and redirecting DNS, blocking IP addresses, filtering URLs, resetting connections and filtering packets.

The Chinese government limits people’s access to the internet because it worries that full exposure to information will affect its goal of building a harmonious society and cause social disorder. In July 2009, Facebook was banned in China because it contained anti-China content. The Chinese government wanted to ban access to this kind of information in order to reduce citizens’ chances of questioning national policies on political issues such as Taiwan and Tibet.

Due to the internet censorship, lots of people have not been able to get access to these websites when they want to. No matter how strong the GFW is, however, some people still find ways to climb over it and get access to the information they want. In Chinese, this is called “fan qiang” (climbing over the wall).

There are lots of ways to climb over the GFW. The first thing people tried was changing the IP addresses on their computers to escape from the censoring of the GFW. This method worked for a fairly long time. The developers of GFW, at the same time, worked to update it to face all these rebellious actions. When this method no longer worked, people also tried to use proxy websites which could redirect the website links to be opened on another internet server. Proxy software, similar to proxy websites, climbs over the GFW by relocating IP address and redirecting websites to be opened on other internet servers.

However, proxy software does not work all the time due to the constant updates of the GFW. Of course, the developers of proxy software also release updated versions every month to cope with the updating of the GFW.

FreeU helped me to get access to most of the censored websites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, even though sometimes it takes a really long time to open them.

The Chinese government banned these websites due to political concerns and in order to achieve its political goal: keeping the society stable. However, even though it succeeds in building a harmonious society in this way, the harmony will be broken one day when people find out the truth.

I think a truly strong nation will never be afraid of letting its people hear different opinions, sometimes even anti-government content. Moreover, it should trust everyone’s ability to make judgments about what they hear and see. If no trust is put in the people, a country will never be really strong; it will only seem strong.+

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    Chaoyu LiDec 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    It’s true that GFW blocks many people’s access to Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, etc. However I think it actually does have some positive effects on the public. On the one hand, think about how many people in China don’t have enough awareness of independent thinking? Some believe foreign news are always true without thinking carefully. Too many different unproved opinions will cause unnecessary confusion within them. On the other hand, if you are really caring about foreign views, and you can judge different voices by yourself, it will cost less than 15mins to get you access to those website using simple apps.
    Yes the GFW blocks a lot of useful information and sources from many chinese, but will it really improve people’s life without causing even more problems after the government give it up? Are young people in China ready for that?
    Also, I’d like to say if people don’t trust in their country, a country will never be really strong.