America against the GFWSaturday, August 15th, 2009
I just learn from Reuters that U.S. is testing system to break foreign Web censorship. This is the first news I have that the US government is trying to outsmart the GFW. Fantastic, after the anonymous hackers now it is the most powerful state in the World that will confront the dreaded wall. The war of the internets is here again.
I am not usually supportive of external efforts to force political change in China. Democracy is like love, I say, it has to come from the inside if it is going to be true. But when it comes to breaking the GFW any help is welcome. GFW censorship is a shameful activity and it amounts to lying to the people, China deserves better than that.
Now, the only problem I see here is that the program is not looking great. I will not criticize the technical part of it, I am sure Mr. Berman has hired the best brains in Silicon Valley to ensure the solution is sound. But like in all internet applications, it is the final user’s point of view that has the last word, and from this perspective I have strong objections. Here is why I think it is dumb:
The real challenge of the GFW is not for final users to be able to access information on the web, this is already done in many easy ways, not to mention that RSS feeds are not censored and any blocked website can be read simply by opening its feed on Google Reader.
No, the real challenge is for content providers, including dissident bloggers, Chinese NGOs, discussion forums, etc. to be able to serve their content in a way that is immediately accessible to all. Because the objective of those sites is NOT to be read by their fans, but rather to spread the word into the general population. And the general population has been proven once and again too lazy to use the GFW bypasses linked above, unless it has a definite purpose to use them (usually porn).
In a nutshell: “Voice of America” is offering a service for fans of VOA to subscribe and access content that they can already access anyway. What those guys need is not to access content, but to SERVE it.
So it looks already like GFW 1 – USA 0. I wish I could say good try, but really they are not even trying. What is this, a VOA publicity stunt? Whatever, all agencies have a budget to spend, I guess.