Just as I had finished up my original post for day, I discover that our website (http://chinadivide.com) was no longer loading. Only moments ago, everything was fine.
Crap, did we just get blocked by the Chinese government censors?
Noting that we were getting a connection time out error as opposed to a connection reset error1, I first checked if our website was loading for anywhere else in the world to make sure our hosting service wasn’t just having a hiccup. Unfortunately, it was, and was verified by me hopping on VPN personally as well. Several other tools then showed that http://chinadivide.com is not currently loading in Shanghai or Beijing, though is remains accessible most everywhere else in the world.
It may be too early to tell if it is us who got us blocked. We’re on shared hosting which means there are multiple websites sharing the same IP address our blog is hosted on. There’s a possibility that another website (like a porn site) has gotten blocked and we’re just collateral damage. Of the other websites I could find that were sharing our IP, I tried visiting. They too wouldn’t load, which confirms that our IP address is blocked as opposed to our website’s URL address itself. A quick test on Google confirms that our URL (“chinadivide.com”) is not itself unblocked.
If the reason we’re blocked is indeed because of ourselves, then we have a few options left. Custer thinks it might be the recent FLG content, believing that the Chinese government has some bot crawling for any website with the full name of the FLG on it and then blocking said websites. He says ChinaGeeks was blocked after posting some FLG content but got unblocked roughly a month later after he removed the FLG content. As such, we’ve made his two recent FLG posts private.
However, I’m not sure if I can wait around for a month to see if that’s true so I’m trying a few more tricks, like changing our IP address.
Unfortunately, it’ll take a few hours to a few days before our new IP address will propagate throughout the internet2. That means it’ll be a few days before we know if china/divide will return to being freely accessible in mainland China without proxies or VPN or other circumvention tools.
Until then, keep your fingers crossed and wish us luck!
Saturday Update: Well, it looks like our new IP address has propagated, even to China (faster than I expected) but I’m now getting the dreaded “connection reset” error when trying to navigate to http://chinadivide.com. This is worrisome. Anyone else in China getting the same error when not on proxy or VPN?
Other websites located on the same new IP were at first still accessible but just now started throwing connection reset errors too. Ping tests show no loss of packets unlike before, so if there’s a different block, there’s, well, a different block going on. “chinadivide.com” is still allowed in search strings on Google, for example, so any keyword filter we’re triggering is limited to just our domain name by itself. However, I get a connection reset when trying Google’s cache for our website. Oh wait, that’s always the case.
Interestingly, we’re not indexed or listed in Baidu’s search results. Not sure if we were but no longer or just never were. Those bastards.
Again, what makes the GFW so effective is precisely how difficult it is to figure out just what’s going on and how they’re technically doing what they’re doing. They either slapped a number of redundant blocks on us, each being a different type, the first time around and while our IP change got out from under one, another type is covering for it. This would explain the change of error message I’m receiving. Either that, or they’re reading what I’m doing. They see us squirming out in one direction and they’re responding to what I do.
Anyone able to access us from China at this point?
Monday Update: At this point, four days later, we’re still blocked and the best explanation seems to be from Chris Tou on Google Buzz who says we’re being content-blocked on port 80, the HTTP port. This would explain why trying to access the website via a browser from mainland China results in an immediate connection reset despite pings and tracerts going through since we changed IPs. We don’t know if this content-block was placed on us right off the bat along with the IP block (as a contingency against us changing IPs) or if it was placed on us in reaction to us changing IP addresses (that “mwuahahaha” earlier was embarrassingly premature).
At this point, it looks like we’ll just have to wait and see if removing the FLG posts from public view will get us unblocked sometime in the near future.