China Blocks Websites Ahead Of Internet Conference

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The Chinese government has reportedly blocked access to a major content-delivery network ahead of the country’s first major Internet event

The Chinese government has reportedly blocked the operations of a prominent Internet content-delivery network (CDN) in China ahead of the country’s first World Internet Conference.

Greatfire.org, which monitors Chinese Internet censorship, said on Tuesday that content distributed through EdgeCast Networks, a Los Angeles-based CDN currently in the process of being acquired by Verizon, has been blocked since Thursday.

Chinese Censored TOP ChinaBlocked services

Greatfire uses EdgeCast to host mirror sites that redirect users to services blocked in China, but the network also provides cloud services to thousands of websites and mobile applications in China, according to Greatfire.

“We have acknowledged all along that our method of unblocking websites using ‘collateral freedom’ hinges on the gamble that the Chinese authorities will not block access to global CDNs because they understand the value of China being integrated with the global Internet,” Greatfire.org said in a blog post. “However, we can now reveal publicly that the authorities are doing just that.”

The affected sites include the website of The Atlantic magazine and Mozilla, which hosts plug-in services on EdgeCast, the group said.

EdgeCast acknowledged the issue on Friday. “We have put policies in place to help our customers mitigate the effects of this most recent filtering but expect this to be an ongoing issue for our customers seeking to reach Chinese users,” the company stated.

Chinese influence

The World Internet Conference, beginning on Wednesday, is seen as an introductory event for China’s Cyberspace Administration, formed in February. It is to showcase the country’s growing influence in the Internet domain, with appearances by the leaders of Chinese technology companies including Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu.

The event is to be held in Wuzhen, an historic canal town south-west of Shanghai, which Lu Wei, the head of the Cyberspace Administration, has said the country wants to cultivate as a base for international conferences, after the model of Davos in Switzerland, which hosts the World Economic Forum.

Wei has defended Internet censorship, saying it is in line with the country’s laws.

Censorship concern

Last week Amnesty International argued that the event was intended to promote China’s domestic Internet policies as a model for global regulation.

“This should send a chill down the spine of anyone that values online freedom,” said Amnesty International researcher William Nee in a statement.

China has 632 million Internet users, including 527 million who use mobile devices, and the government projects the figure could rise to 850 million by 2015.

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