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Circumventing Internet Censorship in China during the Olympics

21 August, 2008
By Allison Orr

A group of German hackers called the Chaos Computer Club has created a device that allows journalists, athletes and visitors to detour around the "Great Firewall of China".  Called a "freedom stick", the device is a USB drive with a toolkit for using the TOR network, which is a worldwide system of servers run by volunteers that circumvents censorship by anonymising data packets.  It encrypts the data sent over the network and routes it through different servers within the TOR network, making it impossible to trace the data back to the source.  The CCC will be offering use of “freedom sticks” during the two weeks of the Olympics.

While there has been outrage from visiting Internet users in China, it appears there has been some easing of censorship during the Olympics.  According to Amnesty International, some sites that were previously blocked, such as Wikipedia and BBC Chinese, have now been unblocked.  Amnesty’s main website was also unblocked on 1 August, and received 14,000 visitors from China within the first four days.

In related news, China has recently surpassed the United States as the world’s largest net-using population, with 253 million people online.  With Internet penetration standing at 19% in China compared to 71% in the US, China’s online population will eventually be vastly greater than any other nation.

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