China, a country known for producing many of the world’s goods but isn’t known for its open and free internet.
This week China stepped up a gear in its huge internet firewall known as The Great Firewall of China (GFW) and added the large information resource Wikipedia to the list of sites completely blocked.
China has had somewhat of a stormy relationship with Wikipedia over the years after first banning it way back in 2004 due to the Tiananmen Square protest anniversary.
The relationship has been sour ever since with China picking and choosing select articles to block while allowing others in the decade following the original Tiananmen blocks.
Wikipedia introduces HTTPS causing China block
Wikipedia has recently moved the whole site from the unencrypted HTTP protocol to HTTPS which means it is now more difficult for China to block select articles. As HTTPS encrypts the website to the end-user it’s increasingly difficult for Chinese authorities to pinpoint what articles are being accessed by their citizens.
Faced with this dilemma the choice China was left with was clear. Either allow Wikipedia to be accessed in its entirety or to ban it altogether. According to the International Business Times and other sources, it would now appear that China has opted for the later as the site is now reportedly completely blocked nationwide.
Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder recently spoke to a website dedicated to information on the Chinese Firewall regarding the move to the HTTPS encrypted version of the site. Wales defending the move and stated that it was in part due to the revelations of Edward Snowden in 2013 that eventually led to the bold move.
Wikipedia being one of the largest public encyclopedias in the world is used by millions of users as a great resource for information on nearly all topics. Chinese users will now feel left out in the cold as Wikipedia is blocked in China.
Chinese users access Wikipedia with VPN services
Chinese users wishing to access Wikipedia and other blocked websites such as Facebook and YouTube are able to use VPN services that allow full encrypting of their internet connection and the ability to tunnel out of China to access the internet via a third party location.
A VPN comes in a software or app form and allows users to connect to countries outside China that do not block access to certain sites and then transfer them fully encrypted back to the user in China thus unblocking sites like Wikipedia.
China has attempted to crack down on VPN services and recently blocked mobile access for some users caught making use of certain VPN services. Services from VPN providers such as IPVanish, VyprVPN and VPN.ac that have dedicated modes to circumvent the Great Firewall are reportedly working well inside China allowing access to the full range of blocked websites.