Google Accelerator



It’s been suggested that Google’s new Accelerator can be used to defeat Internet censorship. Although it may be partially effective in doing so, it certainly does not do so anonymously or securely. For example, using the Google Accelerator from within China it can be partially sucessful — some blocked content is accessible, some is not. As Fons Tuinstra reports access to some sites can be intermittent — at first Google News was inaccessible, later it was accessible. Not all requests for content are directed through the Google Accelerator. Some requests are made directly to the server being requested. In the case of accessible a blocked site (news.google.com) from China, if the first request was a direct request it would be blocked as usual, however, the seoncd was likely to the Google Accelerator’s cache. In the case of ages with many images, some connections may run through the Accelerator others may be direct connections, so the success for circumvention purposes will vary.

However, even when the connection is made through Google’s Accelerator, the originating IP is passed along to the host.

REMOTE_ADDR: 72.14.194.31
HTTP_X_FORWARDED_FOR: 128.100.171.24

Google’s Accelerator does not provide anonymity and can be sucessful in circumventing censorship if the requested content is already cached by the Accelerator. Since al the traffic is is plain text it can be intercepted by any upstream intermediary (government, ISP, etc..) and any blocking done by keyword will also still be functional.

Seth suggests that one solution for China is to block Google, China has blocked Google in the past (it was later unblocked). China does filter the Google Cache as well as Google News, despite the fact that Google admittedly removed sites that China blocks from the Google News site (not the normal Google search engine as often reported) for users located in China. China’s keyword filtering disrupts searches for sensitive words like “falun” independent of Google and it is possible that China could block access to the specific IP addresses used by the Web Accelerator.

Google has now received a license to operate in China and is planning to open a rep office there. While just a small step, it shows that Google is expanding into the Chinese market. It remains to be seen what effect China’s Internet censorship policies will have on this expansion. Will Google cooperate? Google has already shown a willingness to self-censor, I mean solve a “user experience problem”. But then again, maybe they won’t be evil.

One comment.

  1. I should have gone into detail about possible reactions.

    Blocking Google entirely is an obvious stop-gap.

    But the further obvious next step would be requiring Google accelerator servers in China to obey Chinese censorship.

    So it’s not a panacea, and won’t work forever.

    But I do think the effect is an interesting Unintended Consequence.

    I also think it’s very important because it’s *actually* *worked*, even if imperfectly or just for a moment.

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