China Blocks… Pretty Much Everything

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It’s amazing that in these troubling times filled with economic uncertainty and unbridled social woe, the petty-minded governments of various countries still manage to find the time and resources to censor media outlets in order to protect their citizenry from the corrupting influence of free speech.

Iran briefly blocked access to Facebook, ahead of its June presidential elections. China has upped the ante by blocking, amongst others, Twitter, Flickr and Hotmail. Even Microsoft’s newly unveiled bing search engine hasn’t been spared. The ongoing media blackout occurs ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre this Thursday (June 4).

Other media outlets that have been censored in part or in whole, include the Huffington Post, BBC News, and MSN Spaces, with pages being ripped out of the Financial Times and Economist.

Of more relevance to this site, is the fact that Twitter is huge in China, and was in fact among the first services to be blocked. I’ve always thought that Twitter catered to a somewhat ‘tween-y’ niche (Stephen Fry notwithstanding) so it was surprising to learn that Twitter gained prominence in China because tweets were able to slip through the Great Firewall without triggering automated censors. Twitter is just another example of an internet service having unanticipated uses, and how people will always find ways to get their glee.

The rest of us should treasure our freedom of access, while we still can.

Sources: BBC, Reuters, The Telegraph via Wired. “Tank man” photo by Jeff Widener, AP via Wikipedia.

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