New Way of of Circumventing the Internet Censor
December 1, an early Christmas gift will be released for those living in countries where governments have a nag to control what users can and can not see on the Internet.
At the university of Toronto a team of political scientists, software engineers and computer-hacking activists have created Psiphon, a new and possibly advanced tool in allowing Internet users to circumvent government censorship. According to the designers Psiphon will be a less complicated method for the end user compared to existing anti censorship programs.
From the NY Times
Psiphon is downloaded by a person in an uncensored country, turning that personâ€™s computer into an access point. Someone in a restricted-access country can then log into that computer through an encrypted connection and using it as a proxy, gain access to censored sites. The programâ€™s designers say there is no evidence on the userâ€™s computer of having viewed censored material once they erase their Internet history after each use.
â€œNow you will have potentially thousands, even tens of thousands, of private proxies that are almost impossible for censors to follow one by one,â€ said Qiang Xiao, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley.
Instead of publicly advertising the required login and password information, psiphon is designed to be shared within trusted social circles of friends, family and co-workers. This feature is meant to keep the program away from censors but is also the largest drawback because it limits efforts to get the program to as many people as possible.
Whether it will work and will be used by people surfing sanitized versions of the web will have to be seen. If it works and they find a way to advertise it to their target users it would be great.
In the comments on Threadwatch John Andrews writes,
“Spread the proxy via citizen’s own computers and you simply strengthen the government’s position, because you provide the people with scapegoats to hang signs upon as evil. Social repression is different from tyrannical suppression, and the best censors (e.g. China) work via social means.”
Using ‘social means’ to control happens without a doubt but I can’t remember a case in China (and please let me know if I’m wrong) anyone ever being persecuted for surfing to a ‘forbidden’ website. The people that want to visit blocked websites do it already by using Tor or other proxies and Psiphon will be just another option. Getting it to be known by the end user will be the main challenge. And even then, don’t be surprised if the huge majority isn’t interested in using it as there is already more than enough interesting stuff to read on the censored version of the Internet, at least in China.