Monday, February 13, 2006

Gatekeepers keep loosing

Update Apple's brilliant 1984 Super Bowl ad. Today's WSJ reports that more individuals are swinging more sledge hammers at more gatekeepers than ever. As expected, the gatekeepers don't get it and keep trying to hang on. That's the bad news. The good news is that time is not on their side.

"Great Firewall...Chinese Censors Of Internet Face 'Hacktivists' in U.S.
... Programs Like Freegate, Built By Expatriate Bill Xia, Keep the Web World-Wide ... Teenager Gets His Wikipedia"

By GEOFFREY A. FOWLER February 13, 2006; Page A1

"Surfing the Web last fall, a Chinese high-school student who calls himself Zivn noticed something missing. It was Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that accepts contributions or edits from users, and that he himself had contributed to.

"The Chinese government, in October, had added Wikipedia to a list of Web sites and phrases it blocks from Internet users. For Zivn, trying to surf this and many other Web sites, including the BBC's Chinese-language news service, brought just an error message. But the 17-year-old had loved the way those sites helped him put China's official pronouncements in perspective. 'There were so many lies among the facts, and I could not find where the truth is,' he writes in an instant-message interview.

"Then some friends told him where to find Freegate, a software program that thwarts the Chinese government's vast system to limit what its citizens see. Freegate -- by connecting computers inside of China to servers in the U.S. -- enables Zivn and others to keep reading and writing to Wikipedia and countless other Web sites.

"Behind Freegate is a North Carolina-based Chinese hacker named Bill Xia. He calls it his red pill, a reference to the drug in the 'Matrix' movies that vaulted unconscious captives of a totalitarian regime into the real world. Mr. Xia likes to refer to the villainous Agent Smith from the Matrix films, noting that the digital bad guy in sunglasses 'guards the Matrix like China's Public Security Bureau guards the Internet.'

"Roughly a dozen Chinese government agencies employ thousands of Web censors, Internet cafe police and computers that constantly screen traffic for forbidden content and sources -- a barrier often called the Great Firewall of China. Type, say, 'media censorship by China' into emails, chats or Web logs, and the messages never arrive.

"Even with this extensive censorship, Chinese are getting vast amounts of information electronically that they never would have found a decade ago. The growth of the Internet in China -- to an estimated 111 million users -- was one reason the authorities, after a week's silence, ultimately had to acknowledge a disastrous toxic spill in a river late last year. But the government recently has redoubled its efforts to narrow the Net's reach on sensitive matters. ..."