Midweek cracks in the Great Firewall

China’s stringent Internet censorship apparatus has apparently loosened, with a slew of previously blocked websites suddenly becoming available. Yesterday, ChinaGeeks has reported that Vimeo, bit.ly, Xmarks and the Voice of America news service could be accessed without VPNs or proxies. Twitter client HootSuite was also briefly available.

Most surprising is that a host of both Chinese and Western pornographic sites also became accessible. 2009 saw an intense crackdown on online pornography, and a large portion of the CCP’s rationale for censoring the Internet is that lewd content triggers ‘immorality’ and ‘social instability.’

This puzzling change of heart may simply be a technical glitch in the Great Firewall. For Isaac Mao, this could be China’s response to a recent WTO report that criticised the PRC’s “picky” and “unreasonable” export restrictions. However, bloggers at shlaowai offered an alternative reason:

With 10 percent less females in the entire population, men are having a tougher time finding mates and are therefore growing horny as hell without access to any form of release, giving rise to social discontent. Who is angrier than a really sexually frustrated man? No one…What kind of people pick up a knife and attack children at a kindergarten in a brutal and unfathomable act of malice? Horny men.

Ideas are continuing to hover to grasp why this lifting of censors has happened in the first place. Adding to the peculiarity is that tomorrow (4th June) marks the 21st anniversary of the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, perhaps the most sensitive time of year for the Chinese government. Around this time, it is likely that more, not fewer, sites would become blocked.

Interestingly, as C. Custer from ChinaGeeks said, Western media were pretty slow on the uptake of what China’s Twitterati understood as a newsworthy occurrence. Given that the holy trinity of blocked sites – YouTube, Twitter and Facebook – remains censored, it is unlikely that this puzzling shift in the GFW signals any long-lasting change that would otherwise warrant a story.

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