Breaking the Chinese Firewall. Use-Cases of Decentralized Microblogging Service “Ignite”

Prometeus | 06.10| 133

Meet the “Ignite” by Prometeus Labs team. It is a nonprofit decentralized microblogging service resistant to any kind of moderations, bans or block. With Ignite, users can easily bypass the Great Firewall of China

What Firewall can do?

Image © Pixabay

18 years have passed since the birth of ​​filtering content on the Internet in China. Now, this technology is known around the world under the name “Great Chinese firewall.” The basis of the Firewall is a combination of several content filtering systems that have been implemented in stages.

At the first stage (the 2000s), the filter was able only to block domain names and IP addresses. This was enough to block access to any site and redirect traffic to the so-called “blackhole route”.

At the second stage of development (turn of decade), the firewall was taught to filter content by keywords. The system analyzes the content of sites for compliance with the “national blacklist” of keywords. If prohibited information is found, the connection will be reset.

Soon, of course, users learned to access forbidden resources bypassing the filtering system with the help of VPN and Shadowsocks. Therefore, at the third stage of the firewall development (in 2011–2012), its programmers were mobilized to research the features of the VPN protocols used, such as IPSec, L2TP / TPSec and PPTP. Since then, the firewall has been able to reset VPN connections.

At the fourth stage (the 2010s), the filtration system continued to develop with the support of the legislation. VPN services began to disappear from the App Store. China Sinnet Technology, the company managing the Amazon cloud business in China, demanded that its customers stop using VPNs. On March 31, 2018, a complete ban on VPN came into force in the country.

If you, for example, type the word “counter-revolutionary” in a Chinese search engine, the following phrase will appear: “Unfortunately, you visited or requested information that contains keywords that are prohibited by the censorship department of the country.”

In addition to the features described above, the Great Firewall is capable of:

  • To intercept DNS. This method is often used in conjunction with IP blocking. The result is one — it will not be possible to switch to a prohibited resource.
  • To filter content on the client-side. For example, the Chinese special version of Skype collected and analyzed all messages comparing them with the “blacklist” of keywords.
  • To filter content selectively. For this, the regulator has hundreds of thousands of employees. Using the search by keywords, they read messages on popular social platforms and form a report for decision-makers.

Blocked in China

Social‌ ‌networks:‌ ‌‌Twitter,‌ ‌Facebook,‌ ‌Instagram,‌ ‌Youtube,‌ ‌Vimeo,‌ ‌Google‌ ‌Hangouts,‌ ‌WordPress,‌ ‌TalkBox,‌ ‌SoundСloud‌ ‌

Messengers:‌ ‌‌Whatsapp,‌ ‌Telegram,‌ ‌Viber,‌ ‌Line,‌ ‌KakaoTalk‌ ‌

Media:‌ ‌‌New‌ ‌York‌ ‌Times,‌ ‌Bloomberg,‌ ‌BBC,‌ ‌WSJ,‌ ‌Flipboard,‌ ‌Google‌ ‌News,‌ ‌Vimeo,‌ ‌Wikipedia,‌ ‌Wikileaks‌ ‌articles‌ ‌

Search‌ ‌engines:‌ ‌‌Google,‌ ‌DuckDuckGo,‌ ‌Baidu‌ ‌Japan,‌ ‌Yahoo‌ ‌Hong‌ ‌Kong,‌ ‌Yahoo‌ ‌Taiwan‌ ‌

Cloud‌ ‌services:‌ ‌‌Microsoft‌ ‌OneDrive,‌ ‌Dropbox,‌ ‌Slideshare,‌ ‌iStockPhoto,‌ ‌Google‌ ‌Drive,‌ ‌Google‌ ‌Docs,‌ ‌Gmail,‌ ‌Google‌ ‌Translate,‌ ‌Google‌ ‌Calendar,‌ ‌Google‌ ‌Groups,‌ ‌Google‌ ‌Keep‌ ‌‌

Other‌ ‌online‌ ‌services:‌ ‌‌Flickr,‌ ‌Google‌ ‌Play,‌ ‌Google‌ ‌Picasa,‌ ‌,‌ ‌,‌ ‌,‌ ‌4Shared,‌ ‌OpenVPN‌

When Wang Jiang Feng joked about calling China’s president “Xi the Bun”, he was sentenced to 22 months in jail.

But even non-prohibited Internet-services are subject to strict censorship in China. For example, Chinese laws forbade the registration of new accounts without identification. Thus, it is impossible to create an anonymous or fictitious account in social networks & forums or to open an anonymous channel in messengers. And this leads to the arrest of users. For example, blogger Wang Jiang Feng was arrested simply because he joked about President Xi Jinping in the WeChat group.

Why is Firewall powerless against Ignite?

As we have already said, Ignite is a nonprofit decentralized microblogging service. It is built on Prometeus Network and powered by Bittorrent. Technically, Ignite represents a set of independent and equitable nodes. Its mission is to fight with censorship and stand for freedom of speech. Core functions of Ignite are similar to Twitter: it allows to post small messages (up to 240 characters) and attach media files to them.

Due to its architecture, Ignite won’t be governed by anyone and could not be blocked by any form of barrier or firewall.

Let us explain how Ignite works on the example of the Chinese blogger Wang Jiang Feng, that we’ve mentioned before.

Wang Jiang Feng authenticates in Ignite through blockchain via his ERC20 wallet and the private key. Another word, Ignite allows signing in it without a centralized user database or any kind of social networking protocols. Then you choose how to blog: openly or completely anonymously without the risk of impersonation. In the case of Wang Jiang Feng, it is an anonymous blog. Then Chinese blogger publishes any content, including joke “Xi the Bun” on Ignite. When Jiang Feng is pushing the “Post” button, the post is being encrypted and inserted to a special block. Every 5 minutes Ignite nodes download this block to a distributed data storage called Bittorrent File System (BTFS) via Soter gateway. The block is stored forever and can’t be deleted even by the Chinese Great Firewall. Also, each generated block gets an encrypted address (called Hashtag), which is written in Ethereum blockchain by Ignite node. When someone wants to watch Jiang Feng’s post, another Ignite node uses Hashtag to find the address of the post in BTFS and show it to the user.

As we see, if a Chinese blogger used our Ignite platform to publish his posts, he would never have been found and sent to prison, and his jokes could never have been removed.

Let’s summarize Ignite’s core features:

  • Unblockable — Ignite can not be banned by any kind of barrier or firewall, because it stores everything on the BTFS engine, which can not be blocked effectively yet. Also, Ignite utilizes public blockchain for users/nodes authentication. You can’t ban Ignite as long as you can’t ban blockchain itself:
  • Censorship free — no moderation and user bans;
  • Immutable — data is stored forever on a distributed data storage BTFS/SOTER;
  • Anonymous — Authentication through public blockchain;
  • Community-driven — no centralized governance.

Be with us. Read more about Ignite in our next articles. Soon we tell you about other use-cases (to publish unremovable dirt on corrupters or to express even the most unpopular, forbidden opinion) and about Ignite integration with token Prom.

Breaking the Chinese Firewall. Use-Cases of Decentralized Microblogging Service “Ignite” was originally published in Prometeus Network on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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