You decide to take a trip to the world’s most populous country: China. Despite what you’ve heard about government blocking access to several websites and applications, you think to yourself that it can’t be that bad and that you’ll make it until the end of your trip. You’re having a great time seeing the fantastic sights and enjoying the rich culture that China has to offer. One day at the Great Wall of China, you take a selfie. Since you want your friends back at home to see how much fun you are having, you decide to share your breathtaking photos and maybe even funny videos on the various popular social media platforms i.e. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. That’s when you realize you can’t access any of them. At that point, some of you would want to scream out of the frustration and ask “why are all the favorite apps blocked in China?”
How the Chinese Firewall Blocks Access to Some Websites
How this countrywide internet blocking system works is pretty simple. The Golden Shield Project (commonly known as the Great Firewall of China), owned by the Chinese government, is what restricts one’s access from certain websites or hampering the proper functioning of online applications. The firewall system blocks website content by preventing IP addresses from being routed. In simple terms, the Firewall filters what websites and applications can open when you are in Chinese territory. The Chinese government chooses to do this for two reasons: control the flow of Information and promote local Chinese firms.
To start us off, we have Facebook. With a reported 1.6 billion monthly active users in 2016, one would ask how can you connect the whole world but leave out over a billion people? The Facebook users noticed that they could no longer access the website after a series of deadly riots broke out in the Xinjiang area in 2009. The government claimed that some of the users of this platform were using it to run protests in the area and to spread rumors harmful to the state. However, the Chinese have gone ahead and developed other social media platforms that are highly regulated and monitored; Ren Ren and Weibo being good examples.
Banned Websites in China
I’m sure you would want to ask why is Google blocked in China. Apps like: Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs and Google Play Store have all been blocked. Google’s search engine also suffered the same fate: blocked in 2002. However, Google decided to comply with China’s censorship rules in 2006, and a Chinese version launched. Despite all that, a rift developed between the government and Google and they have never really got past their differences. Furthermore, with 80% of smartphones in China running on an Android operating system, means that you cannot get applications from the Google Play Store forcing you to settle for locally produced ones.
Since February 2011, Twitter users could no longer access it. In a relatively short time, China’s version of Twitter, Weibo, took center stage and has now become one of the country’s most used application. Flickr, Yahoo’s photo-sharing site continues our list. Blocked in 2014, users we unable to view or share their pictures on that platform. No one has ever really known why the site has been blocked to date. However, rumor has it that the Chinese government is not a big fan of any photos being circulated on that platform showing any acts of revolution.
A growing List of Blocked Websites in China
Users of the Facebook-owned photo-sharing network, Instagram, had their access restricted in 2014. One would ask why Instagram is unaccessible in China. Well, simple; just like the other photo sharing platforms, the government didn’t want its people getting to see images of an uprising. Some people claim that Instagram works in some parts of China, but then the images don’t load or one can’t upload a picture among other challenges. Just like the other photo and video sharing platforms, Snapchat has also had its use restricted in China. You would say that it’s harmless as you snap your fun times but then the Chinese government disagrees with you on that hence deciding to block its use in the nation.
When you want to watch a video on YouTube in China, more often than not you will see the message, “Network Timeout. The server at youtube.com is taking too long to respond.” Blocked in 2008 due to what is believed to have been some riots that occurred in Tibet. Blocking YouTube was just another step by the government in managing the Internet according to their law. Well, no one has asked the question of whether WhatsApp censors in China? Not too long ago, the people residing in Xinjiang region allegedly had their phone service cut off after using foreign messaging apps like WhatsApp. Apparently, reports claim that the residents of that area had to visit a police station to restore their phone service after it had been cut off.
Banned Content, Regardless of the Website
Illegal are Pornographic sites and any form of photography that exhibits nudity in China. Many globally popular sites like PornHub and Redtube are inaccessible. The Chinese government is usually very vigilant with these kinds of sites; hence they frequently shut them down to make sure that their population doesn’t get exposed to that kind of content.
However, this has not stopped the Chinese from using these blocked apps and sites. They have made use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) software. If you want to use Instagram or other blocked applications, one can easily download VPN software (you can either purchase it or look for a free download brand). You will have access to the blocked sites that the government has tried blocking. However, since this is not such a rare occurrence, the Chinese government has put in measures that counter the effect of some of the VPN software.