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Resistance Growing to Great Firewall

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If you're surfing the Net in China, the chances are really good that you won't be seeing a large portion of what you could be seeing. That's because the Chinese government is running (and has run for some time) a large censorship program designed to keep knowledge of many things from the rest of the world out of the eyesight and brains of the Chinese people.

The facts are these: Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, and Blogspot are all on the list of banned sites in China. If you get your Internet service from a Chinese provider (and you most likely do if you live in China), you won't be able to access these sites.

Also on that list of banned sites is Wikipedia, one of the largest and most widely read research sites in the world. This user-content-dominated site is available in dozens of languages, including Chinese. Yet Chinese students and adults can't access these pages.

This Internet censorship program is commonly referred to as the Great Firewall (a reference to China's most famous modern Wonder of the World). The Chinese government finances a small army of people whose job it is to find people trying to break the the Great Firewall.

Penalties for accessing banned sites can be severe, with law-breakers kept in jail for long periods of time.

Until recently, not many people were willing to risk this sort of punishment. But times are changing, even in China.

Chinese people, primarily young ones, are beginning to be more open about their dissatisfaction with such Internet restrictions. One well-respected blogger has gone public with a condemnation of the censorship. Others will surely follow. Groups of software developers are banding together to write code that helps people circumvent the Great Firewall. In non-computer-related developments, common users have filed lawsuits against Internet service providers who comply with government regulations.

The people who are raising the alarm are a small minority. Most Internet users in China don't know what they're missing because the government has done a good job of allowing them to learn only what it wants them to know. But the more these things are talked about, online and in common conversation, the more people will know just what they're missing and the more resentment will grow.

A trend might be developing in China, one driven by curious Web surfers who want to know more about the world around them.

Graphics courtesy of ClipArt.com


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