Saturday, March 03, 2012

How I Climb Over The Great Firewall

Also known as the GFW of China or the Golden Shield Project,  the GFW is the infamous internet censorship used by the government to filter and control "sensitive" information that might harm state security. Examples of sensitive information includes any article about Police brutality, Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, freedom of speech, democracy, Dalai Lama, Falun Gong and of course pornography.

On Thursday evening, at my Adults class,  I held a debate about this issue, with the topic being "Should the Internet be Censored?" We read this article about internet censorship and this other article on  how Chinese Netizens are "climbing over" the wall. The Majority thinks Internet should not be censored.  To support her argument, one of the student mentioned that she barely reads the Chinese BBC website; instead, she reads the original BBC UK website for a more reliable news source. She also said that she had to close her Weibo account (Chinese Twitter) due to recent privacy changes on the website which requires all users to provide their personal identification in order to keep their current account. This means that one has to be careful of they communicate online since they are no longer anonymous. 

So, how do I get to go on facebook, google, youtube, blogger and other blocked websites daily despite the GFW? Well, I use what is called a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to hide my IP address and make me anonymous on the net. There are many internet companies which provides this freedom to people living in countries with censored internet. 

One can choose to use a free or paid service. I used a free VPN my first time in China, as I found it difficult to pay to use Facebook and YouTube back then. And also because I was only in the country for 6months. But I was later forced to go with a paid service my second time here. This period also happened to be around the same time as the political unrest in North Africa. Internet surfing around this period was very frustrating because the government tightened the internet even much more then to prevent chaos amongst its people. . More and more websites started to become inaccessible and VPNs suddenly stopped working for many. You could say expats in the country were crippled for a while. Luckily, I was referred to a less popular and affordable VPN service which wasn't blocked.   

VPNs can also be used by people living in "free" countries. For example, many American movie streaming websites are not available to Canadians due to copyright issues. But with an American IP address (which you get from a VPN service), you can enjoy sites such as Hulu just like any other American surfing the web from the U.S. 

Without a VPN, I would get this window each time I try to surf any blocked website. But with less than $10/month, I get to enjoy the internet just like I was back home and best of all, keep this awesome blog:)

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