Thoughts on the Blockings
30 Mar 2004
Recently Typepad blogs have been added to the list of blog services blocked by the Chinese government. This is already old news. Some bloggers have responded by turning their blogs’ background color to black as a sort of “virtual protest.” I guess that’s cool, but I think they’re going to have to either get used to black backgrounds or just accept the blocks.
Just before the Typepad block, some major Chinese blog services were blocked temporarily. But before that, the last big blocking to directly affect expat blogs in China was the blocking of Blogspot (AKA “Blockspot”). Guess what? Blogspot is still blocked. The big stink bloggers made about it then had little effect, and it seemed to have even gotten more international media coverage than the most recent block of Typepad.
After Blogspot was blocked, many bloggers adopted a less direct approach to the problem. It’s the same one Napster users adopted when that great giant was struck down. They found another service they could use. The Sinosplice Network began, and at the same time the number of other blogging services commonly used multiplied. Things seemed to be peaceful for a while, until the most recent blockings.
Thankfully, due to bloggers’ decision to branch out in the blogging services they used, the most recent block did not affect as large a proportion of China blogs as the Blogspot block did, although some of our favorite blogs were among the fallen (Danwei.org the most notable in my own personal reading habits).
Those of us that follow tech news may have recently read about the biological principle of genetic variation helping to guard populations against disease being applied to the computer world. I think the same principle applies to the blogging community in China.
Yes, they shouldn’t block us, but I don’t think mere ardent idealism is going to get us very far in this case. We need to be smart. We need to use lots of different blogging services. It would be best if every blog had its own URL, each with a different hosting service in a different IP range, but that’s a little unrealistic.
Unfortunately, the existence of the (rather complete) China Blog List could be a big help to those that would thwart us. I can’t really help that.
Also, should the powers that be ever decide to block any blog in the Sinosplice network, this network I put together could easily be taken down in one fell stroke. I can’t really help that either. But it seems that if the new blockings are going to continue (and we currently have no good reason to believe that they won’t), further grouping blogs on one server (like Living in China) is only going to hurt the “blog population” in the long run unless that server has some aces up its sleeve.
Furthermore, even if we can’t keep our attackers from accessing the full China Blog List, we can at least be a little more subtle in our methods of circumventing the blocks. Those outside of China don’t need the information, but those within China might do well to pass the information around a little more privately. There is much more to the proxy solution than the several websites which are most well known, but the full extent of our knowledge need not be publicly displayed.
Let’s be smart. We’re not in our native countries, so our instinctive responses are not necessarily the most appropriate.
A famous Japanese idiom comes to mind: the nail that sticks up gets hammered.
And we know this is true in China as well.