Why The Great Firewall of China is Crumbling? Tunnelling The Great Escape!
London, UK - 21st January 2010, 16:10 GMT
Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends
[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]
Powerful social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube remain blocked in China as it stonewalls Google in the near term. China will have to concede defeat in its war on freedom to information much sooner than it realises, according to the mi2g Intelligence Unit. Why? The more zealous Beijing becomes about censoring the Internet, the more it risks turning the public against its policies. Millions of people within China, including expatriates, human rights activists and dissidents, are already using tunnelling software applications to engineer their daily "Great Escape" from China's stringent security systems. This casts doubt on whether China can really maintain control of its 380 million Internet users. Far from being just a cyber squabble, it's an education-by-experience for China that it may no longer be able to repel an overwhelming tide of free -- and unfiltered -- global information.
Tunnelling The Great Escape
A growing number of companies are taking advantage of the exploding market to circumvent "Internet Censorship" by providing tunnelling networks, also known as virtual provider networks (VPNs). VPNs give web surfers a secure way to log on and safely access the Internet in such public places as hotels, bars and coffee shops by letting users "tunnel" through to a server in a country that doesn't have China-type Internet restrictions. Then the tunnelling network encrypts information under an anonymous computer address to prevent monitoring by policing authorities. The take up of such networks is greatest amongst expatriates. Non-Chinese citizens living in China are used to unrestricted and unencumbered access to their favourite websites and they are not prepared to tolerate a watered-down Internet because they are used to global access. The expatriates are far from home, and the VPNs are their lifeline connection to family and friends back home. They, alongside angry Chinese citizens in their millions, are doing anything it takes to make sure that they use VPN networks to tunnel through The Great Firewall of China or do "Fanqiang", ie, scale the wall!
Law of Diminishing Returns
The best censorship is the censorship citizens don't know about. Some 60 countries currently censor the Internet, up from 37 in 2008. Iran began blocking the popular social networking site Twitter last year in the aftermath of its controversial presidential election and prolific use of social media by ordinary citizens to carry out their in situ live broadcasts of atrocities. With all the recent troubles in China, the government's designs and schemes are becoming more publicly known. That undermines the goal of censorship as it converts more and more people to carry out censorship breaches. A very public conflict with Google is one of the last things China's central government could wish for. If China hopes to be viewed as a world class international player, it is going to have to think about waving the white flag in its war on freedom to global information and the Internet. Otherwise, Beijing will simply prove that it doesn't understand what the rest of the world values, which is the free flow of information.
Internet Freedom for Humanity
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to make a speech on Internet freedom in Washington today. Worldwide information is now reaching many more global citizens at a faster rate than ever before. Innovations like broadband networks, wireless access and smart-phones are intensifying these accelerating trends. As emerging markets gain muscle, and as wages grow, the world shrinks for most of humanity. A growing population in China and other countries with censorship policies -- including the Islamic world -- are likely to demand full Internet access. The Great Escape has begun and sovereign nation states will not be able to stop it. Why? Nations can control what they give to their citizens, but they can't control what their citizens seek!
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