Monday, November 20, 2006

Behind the Great Firewall

A week each in Hangzhou, China and Hanoi, Vietnam has taught me a bit about Far Eastern internet censorship and how to get around it. From Hangzhou, I have been entirely unable to access

This has been a major hassle for me as those sites are otherwise constantly revisited stations on my daily internet wanderings. To post entries to my blog from China, I've had to e-mail them, which has led to formatting problems and precluded pictures. In order to read blogs on, I have had to use

The more techno-literate may have use for as well.

A quick sampling turned up other blocked sites:

In Hanoi I didn't have this kind of problem at all. Despite the Vietnamese government being similar to the Chinese one (non-elected, anti-free-speech, nominally Communist, practically Capitalist), I could access the sites I wanted from our hosts' home computer. According to our hostess, Vietnamese internet censorship occurs somewhat haphazardly at the ISP level, which means that some bandwidth providers will let you do whatever you want.

This squares well with our impression that Hanoi, though a much grubbier and less affluent city, is far more aware of the West than skyscraper-studded Hangzhou, where non-salespeople in the street sometimes excitedly yell "Look at the foreigner! HELLO!" when they see me. It very likely has to do with Vietnamese history: a century of French colonial rule, friendly exchange with Soviet Russia, the American occupation, foreign aid in recent decades.

But there may be a scarier explanation. The broadband connection we used in Hanoi is registered to a person working as a consultant for the Swedish foreign aid agency, SIDA. It's entirely possible that this connection has had the censorship machinery selectively turned off. And replaced with a wiretap.

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Anonymous Rosita said...

Hehe, I will check my phone and behind my desk... or wherever they usually place wiretaps. Under the bed? I'm sure my job mails are checked though, it takes ages for them to arrive.

20 November, 2006 09:03  
Blogger Martin said...

They usually put them in your bed and make them look like attractive Swiss people. (-;

22 November, 2006 03:32  

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