My personal website is blocked in China. MakeUseOf.com is not.
How do I know this? Because of BlockedInChina.net, a tool that checks whether a given website is accessible in China or not. With results from 5 different locations in China, this tool gives anyone in the world a fascinating look into how censorship works.
In some ways my personal site being blocked in China isn’t surprising. There’s a review there of a book critical of China’s ruling communist party. At the same time, my personal website isn’t exactly popular. I update it whenever I remember it exists, which isn’t very often. How did China’s censors know it exists, yet alone find it important enough to block?
Wondering about things like this is really the fun behind BlockedInChina. Let’s explore some more.
Using BlockedInChina.net couldn’t be easier: just head to the site and enter the address you’re curious about. You’ll quickly see your results. These results come from Beijing, Shenzen, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang Province and Yunnan Province, letting you know whether something is a fluke or a pattern.
Considering all three of these sites played a role in protests stretching from Egypt to Wall Street to Moscow last year, it’s not surprising they’re blocked. But what else is blocked?
Not MakeUseOf, apparently. This makes sense: everyone on earth wants and deserves access to this site. You might want to check right now, though, because a story about China censoring the Internet on the front page might result in us being blocked for a day or two.
Most media outlets who criticize China find themselves momentarily blocked in the People’s Republic, but they usually re-appear once the news cycle completes. Try it out: next time a story that makes China look bad is on the home page run a quick check with BlockedInChina. You’ll be amazed how quickly a site can be blocked.
One more thing: apparently, cat pictures are taboo in China.
Coming Soon To a Legislature Near You
In case you didn’t notice: a few weeks ago websites from Wikipedia to Google staged a protest against a couple of bills in the United States Congress: SOPA and PIPA. Both of these bills, aimed at stopping piracy, used technology similar to China’s in order to block foreign sites offering pirated materials from being visible in the United States. The bills cant stop piracy; pirates are too clever for that. It will give the US government control over what sites are allowed to be visible on the web, though.
Picture from quickmeme.com
The irony of this situation is not lost in China: at least one Chinese Internet user proposed that Americans should “come to China to download all your pirated media, and we’ll go to America to discuss politically sensitive subjects.”
I guess that could work. Do you have any better ideas? Share them in the comments below, assuming this article isn’t blocked in your country.
Alternatively, check out out another way to quickly check if your website is blocked in China.
There are ways to bypass blocked sites, of course. Using them often means breaking the law, however, with all the risk of jail-time that implies. It’s probably best that such laws are changed, or never enacted in the first place.