Yesterday our intrepid Gordon Davidescu sent me an email with a long link to a website that appeared to have “stolen” 100% of GO INSIDE Magazine content. Furious, I followed his link — it took forever to load — and saw all of our content loading into a completely new URL. It didn’t look like the content was copied or pulled into a Frame. Strange. The main domain index page was written entirely in Chinese.
I decided to do some URL investigation and found a toll-free phone number for the website that was loading our content as well as detailed contact information. Even stranger. Usually Spammers or content thieves try to cover their public tracks by hiding real information and forcing false email and phone numbers into domain records.
I will not reveal the URL I investigated because I was ask not to during the following toll-free phone conversation: ME: Why are you stealing GO INSIDE Magazine content? BILL: We are a proxy service that provides content access for blocked sites in China. We can remove your content if you wish. I was thrust back in time to an article I read a year ago about the new and extraordinary censorship in China:
China is also “more successful than any other country” in censoring the Web, according to a recent report by Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. More than 250,000 Web sites–including those of major Western media and non-governmental organizations–cannot be accessed.
An estimated 30,000 human monitors scan e-mail, Google searches, and chat sites such as MSN and Yahoo, and troll online groups and blogs to find offending information. Individuals identified for “seditious” online activity are often arrested, as was the case with Zhang Shengqi, a 23-year-old student arrested for publicly supporting the Roman Catholic Church, which is banned in China.
Bill and I had a wonderful discussion for 20 minutes. His project does not steal content. They take the most popular websites and “republish them” in China via URL proxies that cannot be easily tracked back or blocked by Chinese government censors. Here’s how a proxy server works:
A proxy server is a computer that offers a computer network service to allow clients to make indirect network connections to other network services. A client connects to the proxy server, then requests a connection, file, or other resource available on a different server. The proxy provides the resource either by connecting to the specified server or by serving it from a cache. In some cases, the proxy may alter the client’s request or the server’s response for various purposes.
Bill’s proxy is dynamic and changing as his group tries to stay ahead of those in China who wish to block the Freedom of the Press we enjoy in America. China surfers go to the main page for Bill’s project, enter a search term like “GO INSIDE” and when the search results are returned and the link to us is clicked, the proxy server goes into action and calls up “GO INSIDE Magazine” via a completely new, and secure, URL that is not related to GoInside.com. Now I understood why the URL Gordon sent me was so long and complicated
— Gordon had stumbled upon the secure URL meant only for eyes in China seeking free access to information.
I will not tell you how Gordon found the secure URL in case the wrong eyes in China – eyes connected to fingers that have the ability to shut us down again — discover that web address. Bill pointed me to a disclaimer page on his public website that webmasters can read when they find a properly formatted referral:
Dear Webmaster: If you followed referrer in your web log and found this link, please be ensured that we are not trying to mirror your site. We are running an intelligent caching proxy network DynaWeb to help Internet users in China to get around Internet censorship in China. We try to block usage beyond this purpose.
However, there are always few visits we missed. If those visits to your websites through our network cause any further concern, please feel free to email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to make sure that your site can’t be visited through our network. You can find more links about our DynaWeb projects from here: http://www.dit-inc.us/news.php Sorry for any confusion this may caused.
I confess it is a great honor to have GO INSIDE Magazine covertly proxy-published back into China again and I fully support Bill and his fine mission. I also appreciate even more the personal and public freedoms many of us take for granted here in the United States.
I invited Bill to take this Urban Semiotic blog and all my other publishing projects and proxy them as well if he wished. If you’re interested in helping Bill with this China project, please accept his invitation to contact him online via http://www.dit-inc.us/contact.php and let him know you want to Force Freedom of the Press back into China!