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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora