Internet Access Blockouts Costly and Futile

Blocking internet access has been a common government tactic used to censor information and opinion flow.  Several countries come to mind but China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are believed to extend greater censorship over the net than any other countries in the world. What the most recent blockout in Egypt demonstrates is that internet censorship leads to innovation. Use of Facebook by users from Egypt has surged following the restoration of Internet service to the country.

egyptInterent access blocked in Egypt

Due ongoing protests, Egyptian president Mubarak ordered a shutdown of all Internet access for five days, from January 28 to February 2, but social media and news continued to flow in and out of the country due to those dedicated to keeping the information flowing.  When Egypt cut off Internet access last month in a bid to quell anti-government protests, Google joined forces with Twitter to create a speak to tweet tool that lets Egyptians “tweet” by telephone.

sphinxMasses of users in Egypt used other technological solutions to access blocked sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google. The tools have become one of the key technologies Egyptians have relied on to stay connected, communicate with each other, coordinate protests and deliver their messages to the world. The cost of  Egypt’s Internet Blackout – The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has come up with a figure of $90 million for the financial cost of the Egyptian Internet blackout. It may be much higher.

China’s surging social-networking market

china flog google logoThe top social-networking service in the world’s biggest internet market was created by graduates of a prestigious university to help students communicate with one another. And it’s not Facebook. Renren.com leads China’s surging social-networking market with more than 160 million registered users.  Competitor Kaixin001.com has more than 93 million.

All the major corporations in China, including telecommunications and media companies, are state owned entities or are majority owned by the state. This exerts a significant level of state influence on how people receive and send information. Chinese government censors monitor the internet and block access to content deemed unacceptable. Facebook and Twitter access are blocked. No such forums are found on Renren or Kaixin social networks.

Interent access blocked in China

The Chinese government is blocking access to searches for the word “Egypt” on social networking Internet sites in China. Sina.com public relations officer Ma Taotao confirms that Chinese searches for Egypt are blocked on its instant messaging site, Sina Weibo.

internet block country flagsBreaking down the internet blocks

A growing number of China’s 420 million interent users are turning to services that connect them to servers outside the country so they can access sites blocked by China’s extensive filtering software, known as the Great Firewall. Most computers connected to the Internet are assigned a unique number, or IP address, to route users quickly to the right destination. AnchorFree’s software assigns an anonymous address that can be traced back only to the company and not to the user.

Accessing blocked sites is possible via VPN (Virtual Private Network) — a network technology that provides constant encryption of all internet traffic regardless of the applications in use. The following 5 free anti-censorship client software tools are the most powerful tools and popular methods used past years, to access the information in the free world from inside the closed society, they are UltraSurf, FreeGate, GTunnel, FirePhoenix and GPass.

The US government has engaged a special email tool to break through the censorship filters of foreign governments in order to deliver news and other information. The federal Broadcasting Board of Governors claimed to have used the email tool, known as Feed Over Email, or FOE, to send HTML links to sites that would otherwise be censored by China’s government.

To use FOE, a user just needs access to an e-mail service hosted outside of a censoring country, and the FOE client. FOE is able to fetch content from censored sites without requiring the user to visit those sites to set up the feed. Once FOE fetches the content, it encrypts it and sends it via e-mail much like an attached file. The user’s client gets decrypts the feed and displays it on the local machine.

Discussion

If the country you lived in blocked internet access would you look for and use workarounds to connect to your blog and your readers?

9 thoughts on “Internet Access Blockouts Costly and Futile

  1. Yes, absolutely!

    For me, one of the reasons we’re seeing such dynamic changes around the world IS the change in how we get our information. The more accessible and easily shared information is, the harder it is for one single interest to use it as a means of control.

    I regard the tweets and blog posts coming from people Tahrir Square as ‘horses mouth’ type information, then watch/listen to the conventional media news with interest, as the ‘theme for the day’ is churned out by all the different shows/channels.

    Why would I work around an internet blackout – because I CAN!!!

    1. The more accessible and easily shared information is, the harder it is for one single interest to use it as a means of control. … Why would I work around an internet blackout – because I CAN!!!

      I’m with you Sarah and bats0711. I would not hesitate to locate and use a workaround.

  2. I absolutely would. Reason being is that sometimes we need to let others know we are okay, sounds like a simple reason but seriously if I was in a country that was going through the struggles that the mid east is and I had family else where or friends, I would want them to know I was okay. AND if vice versa, my family or friends were in the situation I would want to hear from them and if it meant finding that loop hole to hear from them then so be it.

    1. @bat0711
      I would too. :) My family members and friends are spread across North America and the internet is the way we connect. Communcating family and friends who are as close to me as family members are is number 1 priority with me.

  3. No I wouldn’t. We’ve already hit rock bottom on the Internet which was a great thing back in the 90’s but unfortunately Corporations have almost completely taken over and of course political correctness is in the picture now.

  4. Its kind of odd how Canada hasnt tried to block the Internet like Iran, Egypt, China…etc. Or propose a bill to “Shut off the internet” like the USA. But rather slow it down and limit it to where its no longer usable with UBB. Its like passive aggressively censoring the Internet.

    1. @dreamsburnred
      Agreed and if there is any more of this and it ever affects my connectivity to the internet I will use the alternatives. There’s no way I will just roll over and play dead.

Comments are closed.