Feeds

Great-firewall-busting microblog app puts AWS in China's firing line

If China wants to censor this it will have to block ALL of Amazon Web Services

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

The team behind anti-censorship body Greatfire.org has launched an Android app promising unfettered access to all Weibo content, in what it claims is a major step towards circumventing the Great Firewall for Chinese users.

Launched back in 2012, FreeWeibo is effectively an uncensored version of the country’s most popular microblog – formerly known as Sina Weibo – which provides access to posts deleted by in-house censors.

The service was launched first as an iOS app last year but later removed from the China App Store by Apple because it broke local laws. Cupertino big wigs at the time were in the middle of protracted negotiations to bring the iPhone to China Mobile’s 700 million+ users.

There will be no such problem with Android, however, which is by far the most popular mobile OS in China and where applications are accessed primarily through a variety of third party app stores.

Greatfire.org explained the following in an email:

We have now developed a way to deliver information into China that can be viewed by any of the 320 million people who have Android devices. They do not need a VPN or proxy and, other than downloading the app, they do not need any special circumvention tools. Once the app has been downloaded, the delivery of new information to the app will continue unfettered and uncensored. This is an important step forward in making the Great Firewall of China obsolete. We are now implementing this solution for organisations that have their content blocked in China.

The app hopes to circumvent the Great Firewall in the same way as the FreeWeibo site – by employing a strategy known as “collateral freedom”.

What this means in practice is that all of its content is hosted on Amazon Web Services’ encrypted S3 platform.

Using a subpath of an HTTPS-supporting AWS domain means the Great Firewall cannot block access for a FreeWeibo user without also blocking access to all of S3, creating huge business interruption for organisations that use the US cloud giant in China.

Beijing tried to do this once, when it blocked HTTPS-supporting dev site Github because some content it didn’t like appeared there. However, such was the backlash from developers it backed down two days later.

Greatfire has also used this strategy to provide access to Reuters in China after it was blocked last year.

It stands a pretty good chance of success as long as Amazon doesn’t bend to government pressure and remove the FreeWeibo/Greatfire account.

There are also signs that Beijing is planning to introduce new regulations governing app content which will force app store providers to vet and police content on their platforms.

However, in the meantime, the FreeWeibo Android app could be a useful alternative for Weibo users inside the Great Firewall frustrated at patchy VPN services. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.