Chinese internet users who are skilled at evading the country’s online blocks have suddenly found they are again being denied access to some websites.
But in recent days VPNs across China have been either inaccessible or swiftly shut down.
Service providers have blamed the outage on an update to the so-called Great Firewall, which the Chinese government uses to control internet access.
They say the upgraded firewall appears to have the ability to discover and block attempts to circumvent online censorship.
The block has also hurt some international businesses that use the networks for secure communications.
The firewall has been built up since the internet began to develop in China.
It uses a range of technologies to block access to particular sites from Chinese computers.
In addition, an army of censors keeps a close eye on the country’s weibos – Twitter-like microblogs inside the firewall that have been used to organise protests and challenge official accounts of events, such as a deadly 2011 rail crash that sparked fierce criticism of the government.
Posts on contentious issues are rapidly deleted and sometimes those using banned terms, which can at times even include senior leaders’ own names, are blocked entirely.
China’s ministry of industry and information technology has not commented on the latest firewall update.
In the past the ministry has said controls are designed to limit access to pornographic and violent content and to protect children.
- China tightens ‘Great Firewall’ internet control with new technology (guardian.co.uk)
- China Tightens “Great Firewall” (fastcompany.com)
- Foreign-Run VPNs Struggle to Evade China’s Firewall (voanews.com)
- People’s Daily editorials signal harsher internet regulation in China (chinadailymail.com)