How to setup a blog and not blocked by GFW in China? This is really a FAQ.
To setup a blog is relatively easy. Not to be blocked is not that easy. I hope this is a complete guide to bloggers inside or outside China.
How Block Works?
Regarding the issue of “block”, there are two camps of websites in the world – websites that is hosted outside China and inside China.
For blogs hosted inside China, they will never be “blocked”. Instead, it will be “shutdown”.
If you host your blog on a Blog Service Provider (BSP), and if there is some “sensitive” content on the BSP, the whole BSP site will be shutdown (an easy way to do it is just a phone call to call the data center and ask the administrator to directly unplug the network cable of the serers). In the history, most of the BSPs in China has been shutdown at least once (like blogbus).
If you are technical enough to host your blog on your own server, the situation is the same as BSP. They will be able to shutdown the site at any time.
Recently, my friends who helps to host other people’s blog was called by police to delete post from time to time…
Also, to setup your own site, you have to register and get an ICP (Internet Content Provider) license to run a blog.
So, in my personal opinion, do not host your site in China. There are millions of reasons people shut it down, and there is no way to argue about this. Also, the risk is to lose all your data. The most interesting thing is, everyone from telecom, to government, to legal system just pretend that this massive shutdown didn’t exist. The existence of this censorship itself is a secret.
Sites Hosted outside China
You can also host your blog outside China. There are also two ways to do it. 1) Host it with a BSP, like blogger.com, typepad.com. 2) Setup your own server.
The first is not practical method now. Why?
The major BSP was blocked. Here are two of them:
Even photo sharing site flickr.com is not completely accessible.
For other BSP, in the future, it may also be blocked. The reason of the block is, there must be one or more blog on the BSP that talks about something the government doesn’t like, and then they block the whole BSP. Your blog will be a victim of the block.
You will have no control of what others write, and you cannot control what the Great Firewall does. So if you host in a BSP, you are not controlling your destiny.
So, my personal suggestion is, host your blog on your own server. Why?
You have much more control of your destiny, although not completely. Most of the hosting is shared hosting, that you put many sites (about 100 or more) on the same server. If any of the sites get blocked, the whole server is not accessible. In this case, just move to another hosting company.
This way, you are, at least, not a victim because other site is blocked.
My choice is host your site with your own top level domain (something.com) and host it on your own server (like bluehost.com or dreamhost.com). This requires more technical skills to do, but it is a good option for serious bloggers.
Write very well, thank you to share!
Virtual private server is a good option for the standalone IP and cheap price.
you are as stupid as hell
When the police call you about ‘objectional’ content on your Blog, do they politely ask you to remove it or do they scream at you?
@Shrek7, no police ever called me so far, since I don’t think they care about English content – a big portion of the English content are saying “unhealthy” things about China if they are talking about political system of the country (instead of just some travelogue). I believe that is the reason I didn’t get called.
When the policemen call (and sometimes via the telecom provider), they are pretty polite, and everyone knows it is just their job to do that. I believe everyone, including the people doing the censorship work, don’t like all the mad things.
Jianshuo, the situation changed a little recently.
For mblogger.cn, I received about 2 or 3 emails per week from NSP (Network Service Provider). They were all about asking me to delete something. However, I can do it within 2 days, not immediatly. It’s not easy to be shutdown if you can handle the request within proper time.
Good point, Eddie.
We had this problem from November of last year, our blog (with nothing objectionable on it) with our own domain was blocked. Strangely, it doesn’t seem to be because of the hosting company, since other blogs are not blocked. We are simply moving the blog to a new domain (.com to .org) that is not blocked.
Is it just me, or is the blocking getting more random and more widespread?
They block both IP, and domain name. It seems in your case, your domain was blocked.
Nice article. A blogger should also make sure that his host has the option to move his blog to another machine/IP if needed, since in most cases the blocking happens on IP addresses and not on domain names.
police wont bother to call, if it is triggered, it is blocked.
the blogspot is usually blocked, strange a few weeks ago, it is unblocked for about a week, and blocked again, dunno how it works.
Very informative and well-written. Thank you!
What if your own .com is blocked? Will I find out why my site’s been blocked or will it just be inaccessible in China for some unspecified length of time?
@Meg, if your own .com is blocked, there is not too many things you can do, if there is any. There is no way to find it out because the existence of this block itself is pretend to be a secret, and no way to find out how long it will be blocked, if there is any chance for it to be unblocked.
@Meg – I have a widget that will test urls on servers in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong – just type in your URL, verification code and click ‘test it’… if the widget doesn’t display the first time you enter the following link, just refresh the page.
I can’t stand this… I put so much work into my two sites hosted on Blogspot for my history classes and now they’e completely inaccessible because the fascist regime has absolutely no shame. And I’m stuck in this country for one more year…
Hi there Keir – interestingly enough, they have just blocked all of blogspot again (includes my own blogs and sites) – but this time is strange – not blocked in Beijing or Suzhou, or seemlingly anywhere else in China – just affecting Shanghai… very, very strange indeed!!
@jian shuo – FYI, my Aussie Pete blog has been shortlisted to the Top 10 in the OMY 2009 Singapore Blog Awards (WTH category) – out of thousands of nominations (OMY is part of the AsiaOne news network)… the voting is going on now (voting online makes up only 30% of the total score – the rest is through judging by media experts and personalities… have to now go through many PR events and media interviews – very much fun indeed – and I was very humbled to make the finals (being a foreigner with many local readers).
In one of the questionairres, they asked who are my favourite bloggers (globally) – of course I gave you a big wrap as the inspiration to begin blogging in the first place!! :D – this will be published on the OMY site next week.