China has blocked huge swathes of the internet in preparation for the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on 4 June.
Authorities seem to be attempting to suffocate potential sources of protest by blocking access to social networking sites such as Twitter. The Twitter platform has proved to be an extremely useful tool for protest movements, driving the organization of spontaneous demonstrations for example in Moldova in April this year.
Blogs too have been hit – the platforms Blogger and Typepad are restricted. Photo-sharing site Flickr and video portal YouTube – both important tools for citizen-journalists – have been blocked.
Traditional government censorship of sensitive search terms has been ramped up in preparation for the date. According to Reporters sans frontiers, searches on China’s top search engine Baidu for the phrase "4 June" yield the message: "this search does not comply with laws, regulations and policies."
This latest flurry of restrictions follow a period of tightening control of the internet by China’s censors. As reported on Demotix earlier this year, users of some internet cafes in China have to have their photo taken and filed, and a new version of Linux designed to monitor web usage is under development by the government.
The regime’s efforts may be futile; ways around the firewall using technology such as VPN are already being discussed on Twitter and blogs. The coming days will tell whether this last-minute attempt to stifle dissent will be successful, or whether China will witness the next ‘networked protest’.
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