C is for censorship and circumvention

The recent military crackdown in Burma got me thinking about access to information around the world. The media also commented on the role that the internet played in getting uncensored information out about the monk’s protests against the military dictatorship as well as how the internet was essentially shut off to stop the flow of information.

Everyone’s Guide to By-passing Internet Censorship (31 page PDF), is a practical document that can be understood by people who aren’t so techie. It outlines various circumvention techniques and outlines various options including web-based circumvention systems, tunneling software, and anonymous communication systems. There is information for both the potential circumvention user and provider.

This guide was put put out by Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory at U of T’s Munk Centre for International Studies. They state that more than 25 countries censor the Internet, including Burma, Tunisia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, China, Iran and the United States.

Although some states enact Internet filtering legislation, most do so with little or no transparency and public accountability. Most states do not reveal what information is being blocked, and rarely are there review or grievance mechanisms for affected citizens or content publishers. Compounding the problem is the increasing use of commercial filtering software, which is prone to over-blocking due to faulty categorization. Commercial filters block access to categorized lists of websites that are kept secret for proprietary reasons, even for customers. As a consequence, unaccountable private companies determine censorship rules in political environments where there is little public accountability or oversight. (p. 5)

Reporters Without Boarders also includes information on filters and circumvention technologies in their Handbook for Cyber-Dissidents and Bloggers.

(thanks Susie for including this in your Bits and Bytes)

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