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China Blocks Twitter, Flickr, Bing, Hotmail, Windows Live, etc. Ahead of Tiananmen 20th Anniversary

Rebecca MacKinnon

This cartoon was created today by Chinese Twitter user "junde” to protest China's censorship of Twitter: The bird bound and gagged represents Twitter. The crab catching the bird is a well-established symbol for censorship used by Chinese netizens. (For the full history of how the "river crab" 河蟹 came to represent censorship click here.)

On Herdict, the global crowd-sourcing censorship-tracking website, people are reporting censorship of Twitter on networks all over China… with some people adding frustrated commentary, often including the f-word. You can also see blockage reports for Hotmail, Windows Live, Bing, Flickr, YouTube, Blogspot, etc.

Twitter users are expressing their anger by using the #fuckgfw hashtag on Twitter (gfw = "great firewall"), though the good folks at Twitter appear to be keeping this hashtag off their "trending" page - I assume due to the use of of obscenity. Perhaps people will switch to plain old #gfw, or something.

Isaac Mao has issued an appeal to Twitter management, asking them to fully enable "https" so that people in China can access it in encrypted form. Google enables https encryption on many of its services.

Many Twitter users also hope that the company will speak out publicly against the blockage.

Active Beijing-based Twitter user David Feng sent the following email to me and some other friends. I reproduce it here with his permission:

I am not one to use Twitter for what I call "obvious political means", as in most of the content I post is tech, mass transit or city-related and concerns the events of Tian'anmen much less. However, my Twitterstream has been picking up with tweets such as "Twitter is more than a website". This in itself is "the truth", so to speak. Quite a number of us don't even text message each other. We DM or tweet each other instead. It's for real even in "far far away" China, so to speak.

So here you have the typical apolitical twitter-er who is far less interested in reactionary propaganda so-called and far more interested in conveying stuff that is "much closer to life". This GFW thing is a major inconvenience and I am sure it is by no means your fault. It lies with the censors far closer to home (thankfully not "your" home States-side!) and I think that while this recent blocking is not unexpected, it was a real pain in the back when it finally struck.

I'm hoping that this most recent block goes away quickly after a few days, when the whole anniversary is done with. I cannot exclude, however, the possibility of a block extending through right after National Day, which is October 1 in China. The public security authorities have already launched a never-before-seen scale campaign to clean just about every last thing in Beijing up — we're not just talking about "officially published acts", such as the taking away of illegal weapons and stuff like that.

In the meantime, let me echo the latest hashtag of the Chinese Twitter community floating around: #F***GFW. This is pretty much a good sentiment of how people feel about this most recent of dumb acts done by no-one else than the censors themselves.

A selection of blog posts and news reports about the blockage:

Danwei: Twitter and other sites blocked in China as of today

Toronto Star: China shuts Twitter ahead of anniversary

Shanghaiist: Blocked in China list now includes...

Guardian: China blocks Twitter, Flickr and Hotmail ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

Reuters: China blocks Twitter service ahead of anniversary

WSJ Blog: Twitter Goes Down in China

Lost Laowai: Twitter & Flickr blocked ahead of Tiananmen's 20th

By Rebecca MacKinnon, Journalist and activist; Co-founder, Global Voices Online
Related topics: Censorship, Internet Governance
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