Featured How to: Accessing Blocked Information
Repressive regimes around the world are growing all the more savvy about censoring, monitoring, and filtering what citizens can see and do on the web. For example, Facebook is banned in Pakistan,YouTube in Turkey, and Flickr in Iran. On the OpenNet Initiative's Social Media Filtering Map, you can see all the different countries around the world where sites like these are blocked. The organization Reporters Without Borders publishes an annual "Internet Enemies" list of the worst violators of freedom of expression. Its latest list has 12 countries, including Saudi Arabia, China, Burma, Egypt, and Iran.
Fortunately, there are a number of digital tools out there that can help you circumvent a government block and gain access to websites, chat rooms, and newsgroups that are banned. We've tried to write best practices guides (we call them how tos!) for as many of these tools as we can spot. Check them out and let us know what you think in the comments section!
Here are some examples. Remember, th
ough, before you download and use any tool, it’s also important to remember that if your government filters the web, it is likely that they also may dole out harsh punishment for dissent. No method guarantees complete anonymity, and evidence of downloaded software could land you in trouble in certain countries.
Some governments and organizations employ proxy servers to filter web content, permitting access to some websites while blocking others. One short-term option to getting access to blocked sites is to use circumvention technology, which creates an alternate path to your web destination.
In this how-to guide we share different methods for circumventing blocked sites, including connecting to a public proxy server, web-based circumvention services like Tor, and how to use tunneling or anonymizing software.
Alkasir is a free program used to circumvent the censorship of URLs. It has been used primarily in the Middle East and is sponsored by Mideast Youth and YemenPortal.net. Alkasir can be used to access content (websites, blogs, forum discussions, etc.) that may be blocked by the government due to their political nature. Alkasir is only activated when you browse blocked websites; other websites that are not blocked are accessed directly through ISP connection. Alkasir also tracks the censorship of reported URLs by periodically checking to see if reported sites are still blocked; it uses this to measure internet filtering.
Want to aid an activist who cannot access internet sites in his or her country because of censorship? The Global Proxy Cloud (GPC) is a peer-to-peer network that allows you to donate your unused bandwidth to help those who are blocked behind firewalls and cannot access sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail. As noted on its site, the GPC works by passing requests to host computers in other, unmonitored locations, which then pass back the requested information to the activist in a monitored or censored location. If you are behind a firewall, learn how to use GCP to access blocked sites.
Hopefully, you will find these tools and tactics helpful. We encourage you to share tips with us about any tools and strategies you have used get around government filtering.