News / Science & Technology

Freedom House: Internet Censorship Circumvention Tools Effective, Lack Security

Freedom House's 'Leaping Over the Firewall: A Review of Censorship
Circumvention Tools' report cover
Freedom House's 'Leaping Over the Firewall: A Review of Censorship Circumvention Tools' report cover

As the Internet plays a major role in organizing protests and disseminating information across the Middle East and other parts of the world, a report released Tuesday by the human rights organization, Freedom House, tells how Internet censorship circumvention tools are effective in navigating around censors.  But the report warns about the security implications of such software.

The report gives Internet users guidelines for choosing effective and easy to use circumvention tools in countries with high degrees of Internet censorship.

Based on a survey of Internet users in Iran, Azerbaijan, China and Burma, the report found all 11 censorship circumvention tools to be effective, and outlines the advantages and disadvantages.  It recommends tools based on one's Internet habits, either as a downloader or uploader of information; one's preference for either security or speed; and the level of privacy and security desired.

Cormac Callanan, head of Dublin-based Aconite Internet Solutions and an author of the report, urged caution when using censorship circumvention tools.

"Circumvention is not security," said Callanan. "Security, anonymity and privacy are important and do need to be addressed.  For end users, we can only repeat that security is more than a single circumvention tool.  And that it becomes a way of life."

Circumvention tools allow Internet users to bypass filters that block content, in this case by repressive governments, and to find an alternate path to access the information.  

In the report, users indicated that they preferred quick rather than secure Internet access.  Callanan says the finding surprised him, but says locals better understand the censorship situation and its consequences.

"They have more real time and local knowledge about what is happening in their government censorship system, or the local policing or the local monitoring than many of us do internationally," he said.

The U.S. State Department-funded report found that security is more important for users who are sending material rather than those accessing and viewing information on the Internet.

Voice of America uses these tools in countries like Iran and China so users can bypass government blocks on VOA's webpages.  On Thursday, the U.S. government gave VOA's governing agency the Broadcasting Broad of Governors $10 million to expand the use of these tools.

Freedom House's Project Director for Internet Freedom, Robert Guerra, says the circumvention software is not only for activists.

"I think to popularize the tool, we have to depoliticize," said Guerra. "It’s not to access blocked sites.  It’s to access things that may be blocked that aren't necessarily threatening.  One may want to access cooking YouTube videos, but if YouTube is blocked, that is a bad thing."

Karen Rielly, development director for the Tor Project, a circumvention software company, says that even her organization can not see who is using the software.

"Tor separates where you are going online from where you are coming from," said Rielly. "Its hides your IP [Internet protocol] address, which can be linked to your physical location."

Rielly notes that Tor and similar products were widely used in Egypt prior to the government taking the country offline during recent protests.  Egypt was not the first country to nearly shut down its Internet access.  Burma, Nepal and China have used similar tactics.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said restrictions on Internet activity that prohibit free expression is one of three worrisome trends concerning human rights.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid