I’m writing this from beyond the Great Firewall of China. Twitter went down two weeks ago. Facebook went down a couple of days later. There’s rioting going on and the irony is – if I didn’t want to know why Facebook and Twitter were down I probably never would have known anything about it.
It’s similar to what’s been going on in Iran. Governments afraid of what people may say have always sought to control the internet because they have always seen the threat. But – now the web is a communication medium, they have to stop the conversation. Which is a whole lot harder. The Chinese government can block twitter.com, but it took them a while to block peoplebrowsr.com. Even when that was down, I can always text Twitter from my British cell phone. And despite WordPress.com being blocked I’m still managing to publish this using a handy application a 14-year old in my class showed me.
Of course, unless they switch off the internet (which will never happen – it’s too important for commerce) people will find ways to keep the conversation going. It’s fairly easy to get around, what I’m using doesn’t even need much technical know-how – just a degree of tolerance for the x-rated advertisements that pop up. I always thought the GFW was pointless, because technologically it’s hard for the governent to keep up with the people trying to find a way through. What’s been surprising to me is how many people just accept it and wait for block to lift. They dislike it, complain about it… but ultimately just deal with it and put their conversations on hold for a while. However, apparently this is the longest it’s been blocked – I wonder how people will be coping if it’s blocked for another week – or two.
Update: Interesting article about the popularity of social media in China.