As I wrote 2 weeks ago, March 10th will mark the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising in China, and the 1 year anniversary of last years riots. Well reports are now coming in via Twitter, Fanfou, and the web that Youtube is currently blocked for some users in China, just as it was blocked in the wake of the Tibet riots 1 year ago. (UPDATE: Monitor the block using #youtubeblock hash tag on twitter. Thanks Ryan!)
March 2008 saw many Chinese citizens using Youtube and other innovative web 2.0 services as a means of circumventing Chinese censorship and getting the word out about violent riots and protests in Tibet. The world saw a barrage of violent images that the Chinese government didn't particularly want us to see, and it ultimately resulted in a temporary youtube block . From what we've seen over the past 8 hours, it looks as though the government is afraid that it might happen again this year. Chinese video sites (such as youku and tudou) will likely remain up, as they are responsible for policing their own content to make sure that it's not too "disharmonious."
This block appears to be purely preemptive, and a quick search of youtube for "Tibet" doesn't show anything out of the ordinary that Chinese censors might find more subversive than usual. But this kind of action certainly makes one wonder if we might see a Twitter block in China this year as well (knock wood). Don't be surprised if this current youtube situation lasts until
March 10th, unless the inevitable backlash from the western media gets
to hot for the Chinese authorities. UPDATE: Peter Schloss says (via twitter) "11th National Peoples Congress is in session in Beijing. I suspect that is the main reason [for the block]."
For now, many users in China are using Herdict.org to cleverly aggregate reports of whether youtube is accessible or not to Chinese users (thanks to peijinc for the tip). If you are in China, it would be a good idea to install this plugin and send frequent reports of whether or not youtube is blocked for you. Here is a quick summary of information that they have gathered about the youtube block so far. Observe the March 4th Spike:
Reports of Youtube's Inaccessibility Spike
And here is Herdict's breakdown of ISP details:
Youtube Accessibility Report Details
UPDATE: MutantPalm/DavesGoneChina has mapped out Herdict's reports of youtube outages. Green means reports that youtube is ok. Red means it's a no go. And orange means reports of both.
Reports of Youtube Outages
March 7th UPDATE: It appears that reports of the blockage are beginning to drop. See the herdict link above for more details.