Since Tuesday, December 3, etherscan.io, which is a veteran and one of the most used Ethereum block explorers, was no longer accessible from China. The local tests performed prove it. This has happened only recently, as on August 18, Greatfire.org, which keeps track of the websites blocked in China, registered etherscan.io as accessible. However, the latest scans on Greatfire.org show the same website is now 100% blocked ever since October 30, meaning people in China can only access it through a virtual private network (VPN).
Etherscan.io Is not the First to Be Blocked in China
While etherscan.io is the first case of a blockchain explorer to become the target of a firewall, there are other websites like Facebook, Reddit, Google and Twitter that are blocked in China too. This is what the CEO of Sino Global Capital, Matthew Graham had to say about the issue:
“This is another instance of friction between the decentralized and immutable technology of blockchain and the tightly controlled, centralized government of China. We should expect additional problems like these in the future as blockchain is integrated further into the Chinese economy and daily life.”
The Reasons to Why This Has Happened Aren’t Clear
No one knows yet why the blockchain explorer has been blocked in China. However, last year, reports on crypto users encoding censored articles on the #Metoo movement have appeared. More than this, there was a pharmaceutical ETH transactions scandal in the country on bypassing censorship on the internet. People were sharing on WeChat the transactions hash and using etherscan.io, so WeChat later on blocked everyone from seeing messages from the website via its app. Etherscan.io wasn’t in any way affected at that time.
“Some have used this feature to post sensitive messages without the need to worry about the message being blocked or removed, or their identity being exposed. Anyone with a blockchain explorer like Etherscan can view these messages, so it is not surprising that this website has come in the crosshairs of internet censors,” explained Graham in a commentary.
The CEO and founder at etherscan, Matthew Tan, said his company was aware of the block happening in the last 3 months but wasn’t sure about the date when it started. He also added that he can’t speculate on why it happened.
Another Website to Replace Etherscan.io
Evidence suggests the block took place back in September and went unnoticed. For example, the decentralized project for finance MakerDAO used cn.etherscan.com and not etherscan.io in some WeChat posts from September 16 and 30. cn etherscan.com seems to be identical with etherscan.io and has clearance from China’s Internet Firewall. Blockchain explorers make it easier for users to look through the transactions of decentralized networks. The blockchain-based transactions don’t get stored in a centralized database and therefore, can’t be put down by any entity, no matter of its geographical location. The other ETH explorers aren’t blocked in China.