Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More on Witopia and the Great Firewall's Expansion in China: Who is Impacted?

I have some more information regarding the expansion of the Great Firewall and my experiences using Witopia as described in my two previous posts here and here.

With assistance I received after contacting Witopia, I am now once again freely accessing the Internet.  However, the previous ways I used Witopia remain "blocked" in China.  Other Witopia users can contact Witopia directly by email to receive similar assistance.  I will wait and see whether my return to Internet freedom is derailed by another expansion of the Great Firewall. 

Previously when I was in Vietnam, I was unable to access China-based web sites while using Witopia.  Witopia's technical support suspects the problem is due to blocking by China and they are able to reproduce my experience.   Ironically, as I understand things the problem is most likely to only impact Witopia users NOT in China.  In effect, China has created a mini reverse Great Firewall.  As I mentioned before, I am not sure whether China specifically desires to block Chinese sites from Witopia users abroad (though, the more I learn the more I think it is just a byproduct of their blocking tactics).
    I've also learned a bit more about who has been affected by the recent expansion of the Great Firewall:
    • According to both Witopia and a variety of sources on the web (such as here) the expansion of the Great Firewall has impacted a variety of VPN services and not only Witopia.
    • Of some employees I've surveyed working at the Chinese offices of companies with American headquarters, all reported no problems accessing an uncensored Internet.  I don't know if those companies are not being affected by any recent changes in the Great Firewall or they are successfully "adjusting".
    • I have spoken to people using VPN services in China on their private computers who have also not experienced any problems.  Like the above, I'm not sure if this means the services were not affected or the services successfully adjusted without their users being aware of any disruption.  All the people I spoke to who fit this description were using VPN services distributed through Chinese web sites that are not frequented by most Westerners in China.
    If the above is representative of events in China, I find it particularly intriguing that some services openly distributed through Chinese web sites were either spared or were able to adjust without users noticing problems.  If China desires to reduce the circumvention of the Great Firewall by Chinese users, one may expect that such services would be the main target for any disruption as their users are most likely predominantly Chinese.  And it would be curious if such services, often very cheap or free, could adjust without their users' awareness when users of services more familiar to most Westerners were painfully aware of problems.

    I will suggest some possible reasons for the above pattern and also comment on some possible reasons for the timing of the Great Firewall's expansion in an upcoming post.

    [Added note:  "Upcoming post" can now be found here.]

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