Will Weibo undermine the Great FireWall?
03 May 20120 comments
The massive architecture of the Great Firewall – China’s internet censorship apparatus – will not be able to stop the local microblogging services called “Weibo” in Chinese.
Goliath was a giant. David was a young lad which was not particularly strong. However, the giant was defeated. Not by sheer force but by carefully selected, polished, pebbles from the river bed.
The colossal infrastructure which the People’s Republic of China has put together to block, filter, dissect, identify and censor the internet is under attack. Not from another country, not from the internet heavyweights, and certainly not from Mongol cavalry hordes as its stone and mortar namesake was. China’s Great Firewall is being attacked by microblogging.
Weibo services which include the giant provider Sina Weibo – with more than 300 million users – as well as smaller platforms are proving to be a thorn on the side of China’s internet censors. The huge number of microbloggers and the rapidity with which they propagate news and opinions make them very problematic for China’s endeavour to control the web.
Efforts are not being spared to prevent Weibo users from addressing sensitive topics and to identify transgressors. China blacklists keywords such as human rights and the name of the Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and posts touching these issues are deleted. A recent initiative has been launched trying to force Weibo users to identify under their real name.
These efforts to block the smooth, polished, pebbles are not working.
Weibo users can circumvent the censorship by using proxy servers outside the Firewall which even allow them to use other international microblogging services such as Twitter or Facebook that are blocked in China. The real name registration has also proven to be ineffective thus far.
China can improve the technical efficiency of its censoring machinery. China can engross the ranks of its internet polices. Yet, the circulation of information, opinion, criticism and political ideas cannot be stemmed.
Goliath succumbed to David’s pebbles. The Great Wall of China was eventually breached by the Mongols.
Weibo will prevail.