Arnaud's Blog

Opinions on open source, standards, and other things

Censorship, moving to

When I talk about “open” these days I’m usually talking about open source and standards and what it means. Like in my previous post on XML vs Open. This post is about another form of openness, or lack of openness rather: censorship.

I used to associate “digital divide” with the mere fact that some people simply don’t have access to computers and the internet. I’ve now come to realize that it goes beyond that. Indeed, there also are the people who have access to computers and the internet but are only offered a crippled version of it.

In these days and age people like myself, who live in the western part of the world, tend to lose sight of how much freedom we enjoy. My recent trip to China made this very clear to me.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the censorship that exists in China. I certainly had. Yet, when I was in China a few weeks ago, sitting in my hotel room trying to find information on Beijing and what I might want to go sightseeing, it took me a while to realize that, what was preventing me from accessing certain websites wasn’t a faulty connection or some network misconfiguration but censorship.

Interestingly enough I was able to circumvent it very easily by setting up my DNS server to some US-based IBM server I had access to, through my VPN connection. Rather weak way of implementing censorship I thought. But then I realized that, even though this was trivial for me to do, this is still probably effective for the vast majority of users in China. Indeed, if the internet used to be reserved to the geeks, they have long been outnumbered, and by a huge number. The vast majority of internet users don’t even have a clue what a DNS server is, and there is no reason it should be otherwise.

Back home from China, a few days later, I reset my network setting to its usual configuration and didn’t expect to have to worry about China’s censorship anymore. At least, not until I go back to China. Little did I know that this censorship was going to hit me again so quickly. Right here, at home. This time, it affects me in that people in China cannot directly access this blog. Indeed, I was informed by a colleague from China that to access this site he has to go through an anonymizer. Bummer.

So, this is it for Blogger. I’m moving to WordPress. Why is Blogger censored and WordPress is not is beyond me. If anything, it only proves how arbitrary censorship can be. But Shush!… Let’s not advertize this too much, the Chinese’s window to the world might close a bit more…

My new blog address is:
See you there!


November 1, 2007 - Posted by | blogs, censorship, open


  1. An interesting fact I was unaware of, that “people in China cannot directly access this blog.”

    Love the new design. You’ll love WordPress.

    Comment by Zaine Ridling | November 3, 2007 | Reply

  2. When I was in China, I was organizing some sessions for a conference. I tried to send e-mail (from a Canadian ISP) to a university address in Taiwan, and discovered that the e-mail was being blocked.

    I then used my IBM e-mail, and the mail went right through.

    I have another friend who discovered that his blog was being blocked in China … but I’m not sure that he’s ever resolved the issue.

    Comment by daviding | November 4, 2007 | Reply

  3. All it takes is one chinese dissident signing up for a blog and you’ll be back behind the firewall. It’s not blogger’s fault that China blocks them.

    Comment by dbt | November 9, 2007 | Reply

  4. Dbt,
    I’m well aware of the precarious situation of this blog in this regard. I also understand that it’s not Blogger’s fault that China blocks them. All I’m saying is that given that currently Blogger is blocked and WordPress is not WordPress is a better venue.
    I should point out that several people have told me I would be better off on WordPress anyway, because according to them it is a better tool. From the little I’ve seen I can’t say this is obvious to me. So far, each tool seems to have its own limitations. Maybe I could overcome some of them if I were to invest more time in customizing my blog with WordPress but that’s more than I’m willing to do.

    Comment by Arnaud Le Hors | November 9, 2007 | Reply

  5. In China people use proxy servers to enter wordpress or wikipedia, so it can not be a big problem

    Comment by victor | February 15, 2008 | Reply

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