Google disrupted prior to Tiananmen Anniversary; Mirror sites enable uncensored access to information
The 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident is coming. This highlights another fierce battle in the war between China censorship authority and information flow.
Google started to encrypt search by default in China in March and currently nearly all users will be redirected to the encrypted version automatically. But prior to the anniversary of Tiananmen incident, GFW(Great Firewall of China) began to severely disrupt Google search by disrupting TCP connections to Google IPs. The block is indiscriminate as all Google services in all countries, encrypted or not, are now blocked in China. This blockage includes Google search, images, translate, Gmail and almost all other products. In addition, the block covers Google Hong Kong (China’s version of Google), Google.com and all other country specific versions, e.g Google France.
It is not clear that the block is a temporary measure around the anniversary or a permanent block. But because the block has lasted for 4 days, it’s more likely that Google will be severely disrupted and barely usable from now on. We reported the block of Google in 2012 which lasted for 12 hours. Back then, we speculated that the Chinese censorship authority was testing public opinion, or the "block Google" button. Presumably, they have gathered enough information since 2012 to implement a full scale block this time. It is the strictest censorship ever deployed. We condemn Chinese censorship authority for the disruptions.
There are steps that Google can take to combat this censorship, which they currently choose not to. Google can tunnel through other undisrupted Content Delivery Network services to evade the block. Google can also add censorship evading functions through its popular web browser Chrome. At the moment, even the start page of Chrome will not load in China. But Google can tweak Chrome’s code to bypass censorship.
Back in 2009, Google decided to remove itself from China so that it no longer needed to censor its content. But it seems that Google is quite happy that GFW does the censorship work for them. By not making the suggested changes above or other great ideas Google engineers are surely capable of producing, Google is not actually providing the information they left China in 2009 to provide.
Before Google decides to make changes however, users in China can use the following method to unblock Google. They can access Google directly using https://188.8.131.52 or add the following content to hosts file.
The above and most other solutions include technical savvy set up of Internet circumvention tools that are beyond average users. We at GreatFire.org confront this issue directly.
We made unblockable mirror sites and Apps that can be accessed without any special tools or configuration. Currently, the mirror sites include FreeWeibo, our own project that collected and publish censored Sina Weibo and its unblockable Android app. GFW failed to block our iOS app, but Apple voluntarily took it down. FreeWeibo has a sereis of users' comments condemning the block of Google, most of which are censored. China digital times(English/Chinese) and Pao-Pao, all of which produce highly sensitive content but cannot be blocked (of course, all original websites are blocked) without causing serious economic damages. Microsoft, Amazon, and Github have to be blocked, creating serious problems for companies located in China. If our mirror sites are not blocked during this year’s June 4th, it's fair to say that our collateral freedom approach passes one of the most rigorous tests of censorship and we're on the right track to defeating GFW and make information accessible to all.