After changing their website protocol from HTTP to the more secure HTTPS, the BBC’s web services are now all blocked in China. BBC decided to transition to HTTPS to increase the security of the content found on its website but is now facing yet another ban on its content.
BBC’s principal software engineer, James Donohue, recently published a blog post explaining the change from HTTP to HTTPS. He stated that the protocol, “makes it far more difficult for ISPs to track which articles and videos you’re looking at or selectively suppress individual pieces of content”.
BBC’s transition comes at a time where mass concern over fake news is at an all-time high. The padlock helps in assuring the BBC’s readers of the legitimacy and the security of their website. For Donohue, the move to HTTPS, “gives users of the site confidence that what they read and watch was published by the BBC and is private to them.”
China’s Reaction to BBC’s Protocol Change
BBC’s transition into HTTPS should be looked at as journalistic championing of diversifying opinions and free speech. However, not everyone seems to be happy with the move. China blocked BBC’s website the moment the change happened. Users in China haven’t been able to access the BBC’s content in around a week.
The Great Firewall of China frequently blocks access to sites that are encrypted. This is done mostly because it’s not easy to monitor the content and the usage of such sites.
BBC Suggests Using VPN to Access Web Content
On August 7th, the BBC released a statement addressing the recent block in which they discussed the use of VPNs. China has been cracking down on VPN providers and users recently, but some VPNs have managed to bypass China’s firewall.
The Chinese government’s reasons for implementing what is now known as the Great Firewall of China stem from political inclinations. According to President Xi, the Firewall works to secure China’s cyber sovereignty and to protect the public from foreign influence and propaganda.
The Great Firewall of China
China didn’t always have such strict censorship towards the internet. The foundations for the Great Firewall of China were set in 2000 with the start of the Golden Shield Project. The project, a database-driven surveillance system, soon found itself unable to keep up with the boom of internet users in China.
What was once a surveillance-based initiative soon turned into content-filtering national wide firewalls. Today, China has the most sophisticated internet censorship program in the world.