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Blockchain To Evade Censorship in China

A number of governments around the world, which include Russia and Ethiopia among others have restricted the use of certain websites triggering protests on regulations on online freedom of speech and expression. It began with Russia banning Telegram, an encrypted messaging app in April sparking an outcry in Moscow. And despite
several countries joining the bandwagon, blockchain provides a ray of hope.

In China, eight students of the Peking University requested the records on Gao Yan, a student who was sexually assaulted by a professor and ended up killing herself. On April 5, Gao’s friend released her story online which clearly made public question the university’s role in covering up the dirt. An open letter penned by Yue Xin was posted over various platforms. In response, the story was brought down from WeChat and other online platforms.

A supporter ended up embedding the letter on the Ethereum blockchain whose records cannot be altered. The supporter embedded the letter in the transaction’s metadata. They also circulated copies of the same within the network, ensuring that it will stay in the public domain permanently. But since communication using blockchain hasn’t picked up yet, ergo accessing the transaction data is a little difficult when compared with other social networks.

However, this tactic emerges at a critical time where evading censorship for the freedom of speech is of utmost essence. In May, an update to Google’s and Amazon’s network architectures was released which essentially removed a quirk which enabled domain fronting. With national and state governments unwilling to stop the operations of the
big guns, the smaller companies use them as a front often disguising their services as those of the big guns.

Domain fronting was practised by multiple anti-censorship platforms such as Tor and Telegram among others. It provided the access to the free internet for people in many countries allowing them to exercisefree speech. With the emergence of blockchain as a potential solution to the problem, it ensures the elimination of all the security threats earlier posed by domain fronting which could essentially be used to disguise malicious activities. Organisations like Civil and Zappl working in the domain will have to be agile as fighting censorship is a cat-and-mouse game.