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China tunes out Soundcloud for a weekend

Flexing the Great Firewall to repel incoming audio

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Fans of online music sharing platform Soundcloud living in China were left scratching their heads over the weekend after the site appeared to have become the latest blocked by the authorities.

TechInAsia was tipped off last Friday that the site was down.

Although Berlin-based Soundcloud would appear to pose little threat to the stability of the Communist Party, it does allow for the sharing of podcasts and audio clips as well as regular music, which may have attracted the attention of the Middle Kingdom’s all powerful censorship regime.

Not for profit Greatfire.org, which monitors the Chinternet for censored sites, tweeted on 7 September that the HTTPS version was being blocked by the Great Firewall but not the HTTP version – apparently the same way Wikipedia is treated in China.

This is because with HTTPS, the Great Firewall is not able to selectively block access to certain content, so it often goes for the all-out option.

As discovered by TechInAsia, the mobile version at m.soundcloud.com was also spared.

The site apparently came back online to Chinese users on Monday and the firm’s Twitter feed chooses not to mention the incident – although it does reference downtime on the mobile site last week and “a backlog that’s causing delays through Soundcloud” on Monday.

If nothing else the incident highlights the everyday trials facing internet users living within the Great Firewall – where sites can be blocked at the whim of the Party, or slowed down to the point where they simply become unusable, as is the case with many Google services.

Using a VPN has become obligatory for foreign businesses and netizens living in the PRC but even that is an imperfect solution.

Apart from regularly slowing connection and download speeds, VPNs have also become a target in their own right, with the authorities deciding to block many of them back in December. ®

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