Google Blocked? An Update.

There is a good reason I have a link to the blog called “The Third World View“. The author of that blog (Rezwan) is one of the hardest working bloggers I know. When it comes to issues about Bangladesh the guy never seems to sleep. And, when it comes to his investigative journalism, he often puts the mainstream media to shame. In fact, his recent investigation has lifted a weight off my chest.

About a week ago, I broke the story that Bangladesh was blocking access to Google and its related web services (like GMail, Blogspot, Blogger, and so on). This ended up becoming the most linked to story I have ever written in my life. But many local Bangladeshis decided to take a “if it’s not true for me – it must be false” approach and contradicted my report both on this site and elsewhere. When access to Google was restored a day or so later – I apologized for being so alarmist and wrote the whole problem off as a technical glitch.

While I was busy apologizing, Rezwan was busy fact-checking my story. First, he was able to get independent confirmation of Google being blocked from other Bangladeshi internet users during the same time. Second, he was also able to verify that this problem existed on even more ISPs than I had originally reported. Finally, he was also able to get independent confirmation that access to some Google services were restored with tools like OpenDNS (which bypass Bangladesh DNS servers) and TOR (which bypasses censorship and filtering).

But what really shows off Rezwan’s investigative acumen is his analysis of why there were conflicting reports about Google being blocked in Bangladesh and why this might in fact have been intentional censorship instead of a technical glitch.

A summary of his analysis after the jump…..

It turns out that Bangladeshis can connect to the internet in one of two ways. One is by having your internet data routed through the local wired systems run by BTTB (the Bangladesh equivalent of Ma Bell). The other way is through independent satellite links called VSats. Most local internet users don’t know exactly how their data is being routed – many ISPs in Bangladesh provide service using a combination of BTTB wired and independent VSat links. So, it could still have been possible that Google was being blocked without it affecting all Bangladeshi internet users.

Rezwan also lends weight to the idea that this might have not been a technical glitch. Because within 7 days of Bangladesh blocking access to Google, it turns out that Iran was doing the same thing. And, just like in Bangladesh, access to Google was blocked for just a few days and then later restored. What are the odds that two Muslim countries would both have technical glitches accessing American owned websites less than 7 days apart? To add to the coincidences, both these problems occurred around the anniversary of September 11th (and in the case of Bangladesh, access to Google was blocked during the morning of September 11th).

It’s stories like this that show me just how hard it is to be a good blogger. I tip my hat to Rezwan for looking into this story when I had already brushed it off. You can read Rezwan’s analysis here.

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  1. 1 The Uncultured Project » BREAKING: Bangladesh Censoring/Blocking Access to Google

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