Table of Contents

Comment Icon0 Under the restraints of China’s Internet filtering, Chinese Internet users have been inventive in their approach to searching for information online. Technically-savvy users have improvised the use of traditional web services to serve their need for obtaining prohibited content. A common loophole involves the use of a proxy, which refers to a computer network service that allows clients to make indirect network connections to other network services. For Chinese Internet users, this would typically involve the use of a server located outside of mainland China to relay information indirectly from prohibited sources. Since there are many legitimate online services that exhibit this proxy-like behavior by the nature of their design, Internet users have repurposed several popular services to fit their specific needs.

Comment Icon0 A caching proxy server accelerates service requests by retrieving content saved from a previous request made by the same client or even other clients. Caching proxies keep local copies of frequently-requested resources, allowing large organizations to significantly reduce their upstream bandwidth usage and cost, while significantly increasing performance. While most ISPs and business enterprises have caching proxies to accelerate page-load times, publicly-accessible ones would include the “cached pages” of popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo!. When searching for a website, users would look for a small link labelled “cached” next to their search results. Since users are retrieving a copy of the blocked page from the search engine’s servers, and not from the blocked website itself, they may be able to access the censored content. As proof of the inconsistency in censorship, China has blocked Google’s search engine cache pages, but cache pages of other search engines remain accessible.

Comment Icon0 Besides the cache pages of search engines, online translation services are also being offered by the same major Internet conglomerates, including Google Translate and Yahoo! Babel Fish. As these intermediary services translate languages of existing webpages, they also behave like proxies, thus allowing users to use them as a way to access censored material online without directly connecting to the blocked website.

Comment Icon0 With the advent of the social web, more content is being shared online, not just by mainstream media producers, but by more end-users as well. One particular web technology that has emerged to help make sense of the new plethora of online information is RSS, otherwise known as Really Simple Syndication. RSS consists of web-feed formats used to publish frequently updated works in a standardized format, whether they are blog entries, news headlines, audio or video files (Libby, 1999). Using an RSS aggregator, such as Google Reader and, Internet users would subscribe to their favorite online content in order to receive automatic updates when new information gets published. Since the RSS aggregator connects to the website on users’ behalf, it could also be used as a proxy server, which even helps keep track of prohibited websites.

Chapter 7.3.2 – Improvised Proxy Techniques


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