Being online in China reminds me of using a computer in many of our Oklahoma public schools.* In September 2007 after returning from Shanghai I wrote the post, “Content filtering in Communist China versus an Oklahoma school.” At that time when I was presenting at a conference in China, I used a paid, subscriber account on Proxify.com to bypass national content filters and access many sites I needed to both use and show to teachers. Three years later in Shanghai, this week, it’s clear the content filtering situation has become MUCH more severe and restricted here. Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook are three of the sites NOW blocked in China which were accessible in 2007. This is a partial list of websites I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to access via my “normal” hotel Internet connection, because they are blocked:
sites.google.com – this includes the following sites:
images from flickr.com
My solution this year to bypass Chinese censors is Astrill VPN. I’m currently on a seven day free trial.
Tim Lauer recommended Astrill, along with several other cohort leaders here in Shanghai at Learning 2.010. Tim’s using it not only on his laptop but also his iPad. Astrill runs as a background application on my MacBook Pro laptop. According to the program’s overview page:
Astrill is a professional fast and secure VPN that protects your privacy on-line and makes you anonymous all the time while surfing on the net. With Astrill, you can feel safe every time you turn your PC on and you do not have to worry about your personal data being stolen by somebody else. Astrill makes your internet activity completely covered, not even your ISP will know what sites you have visited. Astrill comes out of the box with UK and USA IPs, which in combination with easy few-step installation and 24/7 support makes it one of the best VPN solutions in the market.
I’m not as interested in Astrill for its anonymizing power as I am for its ability to create a “secure tunnel” for my Internet traffic, so I’m not censored by the firewall erected by the Chinese government.
The previous screenshot gives a partial indication of my current downstream and upstream Internet speeds from here in my Shanghai hotel, using Astrill. VPN tunneling always slows down an Internet connection, but in this case it’s a situation of accessing websites more slowly or not at all. Here are the results from a speedtest.net test:
Does it strike you as ironic that Tim Lauer, the principal at Lewis Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, is providing advice on VPNs and content filter circumvention?! I feel like we’re both teenagers in a current U.S. high school, which (like many of our U.S. public schools) has not yet “Unmasked the Digital Truth” and continues to filter Internet content like an authoritarian, east Asian government I know.
Being subjected to Chinese Internet content filtering encourages me further to plot ways to help facilitate a distributed, social media action campaign in the United States for balanced content filtering in our schools. My family and I don’t live in China, and I’m tired of having so many of our school leaders in the United States act like we do.
See these other past posts for more related ideas and discussion:
- Cognitive dissonance from the school internet filtering message (April 2010)
- Criticism of School District Content Filtering Policies is not a personal attack on ALL tech directors (April 2010)
- The dilemma presented by China’s content filtering of my current handouts website (November 2009)
- Issues with tiered content filtering (March 2008)
- Advocating for differentiated content filtering (Feb 2008)
* NOTE: I want to acknowledge that several of our Oklahoma school districts DO have “balanced” Internet content filtering policies. Howe Public Schools is one exemplar district in this regard. Unfortunately there are not many. There ARE more, however, in Oklahoma as well as in other states. I hope a coordinated campaign for balanced content filtering in our schools can (some day) help amplify as well as showcase schools like Howe whose leaders act like they live in the United States, rather than China, when it comes to content filtering.
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- Oren Lee Peters - Stories of My Life - 2011
- Sounds of My World - My new sound blog - 2011
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- Thinking about dark matter, the origins and size of the universe - 2009
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- Hello from Hong Kong - 2009
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