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Business - Written by on Friday, February 22, 2008 14:42 - 4 Comments

Firewall Hurdling : 2008 Olympic Demonstration Sport

In a post by Don earlier this month, he wondered if China would ever bring down its firewall. In the post, he speculates that the coming Olympic Games would only make the crackdown worse. Well it looks like he may have been right and wrong according to this piece in the National Post yesterday.

The article says China will open up very limited parts of the “Great Firewall” in order to give visiting foreigners unrestricted access to the internet for the duration of the games. They’re able to do this because the Chinese Internet censorship system is precise enough that it can filter (or not) searches from specific IP addresses as well parts or all of any webpage – the Chinese are hoping to medal in this discipline in 2008.



The article goes on to quote Atlantic Magazine correspondent, James Fallows,

“What Olympic-era visitors will be discovering is not the absence of China’s electronic control, but its new refinement — and a special Potemkin-style unfettered access that will be set up just for them, and just for the length of their stay.”

Like its brick and mortar predecessor, The Great Firewall can’t keep what’s in in and what’s out out forever. This week, Bill Gates argued that the Chinese firewall can’t possibly withstand the forces of business. The argument goes that censorship is bad for business and if censorship is bad for business then business will breakthrough censorship barriers. Business is a powerful force and its influence can’t be denied but criticisms that companies (search engines, I’m looking in your direction) have been complicit in Chinese censorship efforts leave me somewhat skeptical.

What gives me cause for more hope is another New York Times article that looks at the internal pressure for change. The article details the story of Zhu Nan and Pan Liang, two Chinese internet users who are questioning the need for and extent of internet censorship in China. Mr. Zhu even used his blog to give tips on how to cirmcumnavigate the censorship system. Even more interesting is Du Dongjing who’s suing China Telecom for failing to acknowledge that it is blocking content.

With over 200 million people on the internet and growing global attention on China will the government be able to maintain a tight grip over information flow? Can the sophistication of the digital gatekeepers stop the information seekers from going over, under or through the wall? In the long run, my bet is on the people poking at the cracks in the wall.


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Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Gregory Potemkin
Feb 24, 2008 16:15

[...] Potemkin Following up on Danny’s post about the strength of China’s internet firewall, and its ability to withstand the curiosity and [...]

Jul 11, 2008 1:59

Prejudice as other English speakers. How many people of you have ever been to China yourself, knowing the real lives of our Chinese’?
I thought the world outside China was friendly like us. But I knew that I was wrong, like most of my friends.
Your guys are just make me sick. Byebye.

billy bob
Jul 31, 2008 19:48

This total farce of the world coming together in one of the most corrupt, socialistic, dirty societies of our times is in all ways deplorable. For China to tell people all of these things they can and can’t do just adds to the view of the world of an already messed up society. The olympics should be a sign of brotherhood and descent competition and for just a couple of weeks everyone needs to forget about all of the strife and ugliness that is going on around them. But how can they when the Chinese government has all of these absurd rules and have sent people away to “camps” fuck these unruly bastards. We have no right to be over there, as fluffers to their economy, their polluted, over populated, money grubbing society does not deserve a god damn penny.

Knut Holt
Aug 8, 2008 20:46

Do we really need that megalomanic event called olympic games? I rather choose to do some sport myself than watch all these rather boring competirions.

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