New tools make it easier to bypass Chinese firewall
Chinese Internet censors are among the most extensive in the entire world, but in a country with such large online potential, more and more people are looking for ways around them.
The Internet thrives the most in countries where there is more room to explore the capabilities of cyberspace. E-commerce, social media, forums and other developments that have emerged hand in hand with the growth online activity and are largely a product of people being able to freely use the Internet and explore its capabilities.
These developments build on themselves. For instance, Facebook started as a small online application that was reserved to just the Harvard campus, but soon spread to other schools, and eventually left the communal restrictions behind. Now, companies, organizations as well as individuals can all use the connective capabilities of Facebook to enhance marketing and awareness efforts.
Despite these capabilities, those living in the most populous country in the world is still restricted from accessing the social network. China for a long time has sought to censor online content that it deems inappropriate and unacceptable toward the state.
The problem with online censorship
The instance of social media understood in the context of online censorship is an interesting one. These kinds of online outlets are based on the development of profiles, which individuals can then use to post, comment and share different forms of materials. This works as a form of self expression as anyone can post something through their status.
In China, by virtue of its population, there are a number of individuals who can share their ideas, but their voices are being silenced in a variety of ways. First off, the government has limited the kinds of social media platforms that its citizens can use. Facebook and Twitter, for instance are blocked. But perhaps more alarming is the fact that what is said can also be limited. Prominent bloggers, like Ai Wei Wei have been arrested and sentenced to house arrest because of the various subjects they blog about, many of which are quite critical of the government.
One product of this has been the emergence of a prominent social media outlet within the country, known as Sina Weibo. But despite being a Chinese company, the website has had its own difficulties with online censors, due to rulings that limit government criticism and "rumor spreading."
Finding a way around the wall
These restrictive online policies have come to be known as the Great Firewall of China. However, these controls have not entirely stopped citizens within the country from bypassing government control. A number of people from within China and outside have worked to create tools that can help people get around the censors.
One of the most recent has come from a group of watchdogs and activists known as GreatFire. The group recently created an app for Android phones known as FreeWeibo, which enables users to read posts that were censored on Sina Weibo, according to Mashable.
"Since the founding of our organization, I don't think we've come as close to achieving that goal as we are about to with the release of [the FreeWeibo] Android app. Because it's really changing the rules of the game," one of the groups founders told the news source.
Another program that is working to bypass Chinese censors is the U.S.-backed Lantern project, which allows users from countries with freer internet access to share bandwidth with people in China and other more limited countries, according to the South China Morning Post.
These programs will certainly be helpful in making online access in China more open, however, the government needs to change its stance on online censorship to truly reap the benefits of the Internet.