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China’s Ban on Blogger Blogs (and Possible Workarounds)
May 25, 2009, Blogging Tips
There has been much speculation about China’s recently imposed “blanket ban” of all Blogger powered blogs. Some believe this is intended to quell references to the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident, while others wonder if this is a technical difficulty as hinted on Blogger’s Known Issues page.
In either case, this ban affects blogs hosted on the *blogspot.com subdomain (approximately 275 million) and also those who use a custom domain for their Blogger blogs (statistics of which are very difficult to gather). Here are the results of accessibility tests from WebsitePulse which show whether sites are accessible from within China:
According to logs from Herdict Web, Blogger powered sites have been blocked from around the 16th of May onwards; even today, there are dozens of references via Twitter from those in China who are unable to publish to their blogs or access websites they wish to visit:
What can we do to work around this ban, ensuring those in China can publish their blogs and access the sites they want to read?
For bloggers in China who want to publish new posts
Bloggers in China are unable to access their Blogger dashboard by regular means. However, there are other services which can still be accessed that can publish to Blogger on your behalf.
Post by email
Blogger has offered the “Mail to Blogger” service for quite some time, enabling bloggers to publish new posts while on the move. This enables us to write an email to our secret “Mail to Blogger” address which is then automatically published on our sites.
The only downside to this is that the Mail to Blogger address must be set up from within the Blogger dashboard, so this service is only possible for China-based bloggers who have already set up their email address.
A possible alternative is Posterous, which you can set up as a third party “Mail to Blogger” client using your blog’s unique ID number (which can also be found in the source code of your blog’s feed).
Auto-post via Facebook or Ping.fm
BlogIt is an app for Facebook which enables you to update multiple blogs and status feeds from your Facebook profile. Once you have installed this app in your Facebook profile, you will need to authorize use of your Blogger account (through Google hosted pages), after which you can update your blog via Facebook any time you like.
Ping.fm is another alternative, offering a simple solution to update your Blogger blog (and other social profiles) from a single application. Using Ping.fm you can update via the web, IM, email and other third party applications. It is advisable to use Ping.fm for short posts only as no formatting options are enabled.
To read Blogger powered blogs from within China
For those wishing to read their favourite Blogger powered blogs from within China, here are a couple of possible solutions:
Translate Blogger blogs
Using Google Translate or Babelfish, you can circumvent the restrictions by viewing Blogger blogs in a translated page. This ensures that the URL of the site you are reading is based on a different server.
Choose to translate from Chinese to English (or whichever translation you prefer) and paste the complete URL of the blog you wish to read. The blog will then be accessible for you to browse recent posts or archives with ease:
Unfortunately this does not appear to work when attempting to access the Blogger home page, so this workaround will not enable you to post from the Blogger dashboard.
Subscribe to “banned” blogs using an RSS reader
It is also possible to read updates from your favourite sites by reading in an RSS reader. Sign up to use Google Reader, BlogLines or Newsgator (none of which appear to be banned in China) and add the URL of the default feed for the Blogger blog you wish to read. This will be in the following format: http://your-favourite-blog.blogspot.com/atom.xml.
You will then be able to read the latest updates from your favourite blogs, though unfortunately it may be impossible to comment on these posts since this requires access to Blogger servers.
Digital Inspiration also offers some interesting techniques to access banned sites from within China in this post.
How to find out if your blog is banned in China
The simplest way to discover if your blog (or website) is inaccessible from within China is to use this free tool from WebSitePulse. Paste the URL of your blog in the window and hit enter. After a few moments, you will be presented with results which show if your blog can be accessed from China and comparitively with other servers from different continents.
How to find out if your ISP is blocking Blogger blogs
To discover if you will be able to access Blogger powered blogs through your internet service provider, it is advisable to ping blogspot.com using your computer’s DOS ping tool.
If you use Windows, you can do this by clicking the “Start” button and choosing the “run” command. Type “cmd” into the box and hit “enter”. Then type ping blogspot.com into the black box followed by enter.
For unrestricted access to blogspot.com through your ISP, you will see something like this on your screen:
Pinging blogspot.blogger.com [22.214.171.124] with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from 126.96.36.199: bytes=32 time=329ms TTL=239
Ping statistics for 188.8.131.52:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 294ms, Maximum = 337ms, Average = 323ms
In cases where the URL is blocked, you will likely receive a message like “Ping request could not find the host. Please check and try again.
It seems unlikely that Blogger powered sites will be accessible from within China in the close future, though as we have seen before, such restrictions are usually lifted after a period of time.
I hope the information and tips in this article assist those who need to post to their blogs or read Blogger powered sites from within China. Please feel free to offer your own suggestions and comments below.