International firewalls

Do you have customers in China who can’t visit your online store, a client in Vietnam who can’t download documents from your website, or a friend in Saudi Arabia who can’t read your blog? And, at the same time, everyone else seems to access your online materials just fine?

If visitors from specific countries are having difficulty accessing your website, you may be running into a national firewall, which certain states construct to restrict internet access. The Great Firewall of China is the most well-known, but over a dozen countries currently implement pervasive restrictions on internet access, and dozens more practice some form of online censorship. Wikipedia has a complete list of countries which censor the internet.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent a nation from blocking your website. You can, however, encourage your visitors from that country to use a proxy server or onion router like the one offered by Tor to get around the restrictions.

In the longer term, you can petition for international internet rights, and encourage citizens of restrictive countries to petition or vote for change.

If you want to double-check whether your site is accessible from China, you can use a site like this one to run a quick test:

http://www.greatfirewallofchina.org/

By Sharon Campbell

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