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In China and Iran, this has taken the form of attacking VPN connections so that citizens don’t have access to the Internet outside of the more tightly regulated domestic version.
China has also used keyword-based censorship approaches to domestic apps such as WeChat, stopping COVID-19 discussions that might be critical of the central government from happening. This included, notably, suppression of the hashtag “We Want Freedom Of Speech” and posts related to it when Dr. Li Wenliang, a COVID-19 whistleblower who was reprimanded by local Wuhan police for sharing information about new cases of the-then undefined mysterious new disease and who later died of COVID-19 complications (though later the central government apologized to his family).
South Central Morning Post journalist Sarah Zhang posted about how her interview with Dr. Ai Fen, a subject of attempted Chinese state censorship, was relayed and posted on the Ethereum blockchain to circumvent that censorship.
Dr. Ai Fen is the director of Wuhan Central Hospital’s emergency room, one of the hardest-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic’s beginnings in Wuhan. Four doctors from the hospital, including Dr. Li Wenliang, ended up dying of COVID-19. She said in a heavily censored interview that she was given an “unprecedented and severe rebuke” for trying to warn other doctors about a new emerging SARS-like disease and urging fellow doctors to take precautions.
The heavily censored interview was removed from Chinese chat mainstay WeChat, and Chinese netizens resorted to a variety of different tactics to try to evade censorship, from posting the interview via QR code, to placing typos to try to avoid keyword-exact censorship from online monitors.
One group of netizens also used the Ethereum blockchain in order to post the content. The article was written into data on the block height of 9648876 on the Ethereum blockchain on March 11th, 2020. In the photo posted by the journalist, this group of netizens is proud to claim that the security of the message is now guaranteed by “nodes all over the world.” and that so long as “one [Ethereum] node is running, the article will always be online.”
That exact text can be found in transaction hash 0xf3691b0ab12fff4fa9eb0eecd14878e06e7bbdf322320d248250a4026f67c3e6. The Etherscan entry for this transaction is the following. Anybody can view the input (in the Input Data field after the Nonce, after clicking on Click to See More below the Transaction Fee field) by viewing the input as UTF-8, which supports Mandarin characters, and seeing the censored story in full, in Mandarin.
Chinese writers such as Yu Hua have long written about the “spirit of May 35th”, where Chinese netizens evade the controls of the Chinese Internet through clever methods, akin to a mouse evading a cat. Perhaps now with Ethereum and the plethora of blockchains secured by a multitude of decentralized peers, another tool has been added.