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Reporters Without Borders Fight Web Censorship 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the anonymous-non-cowards dept.
eldavojohn writes "Yesterday Reporters Without Borders (RSF) launched a new initiative called 'Anti-Censorship Shelter' that aims to provide shelter for bloggers and Internet journalists in foreign countries who risk persecution or censorship from their local governments. RSF stated, 'At a time when online filtering and surveillance is becoming more and more widespread, we are making an active commitment to an Internet that is unrestricted and accessible to all by providing the victims of censorship with the means of protecting their online information. Never before have there been so many netizens in prison in countries such as China, Vietnam, and Iran for expressing their views freely online. Anonymity is becoming more and more important for those who handle sensitive data.' Working with Xerobank, RSF has a high-speed, devoted VPN that users can connect to that sounds like an onion router. While RSF admitted this masked address service is not foolproof, it's impressive to see an organization proactively seeking out individuals and offering them a digital shelter to protect themselves from a fate similar to that of the estimated 120 imprisoned bloggers around the world."
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Reporters Without Borders Fight Web Censorship

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  • by elucido (870205) * on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:29PM (#32702912)

    The technology needs to be upgraded. I suggest that a Linux distribution designed specifically for journalists be created. Maybe call it Xerotrace. It has to be a liveCD, it can include Tor, Freenet, GNUNet, and encrypted truecrypt container for permanent storage. This could be combined with cloud computing to allow the blogger or journalist to upload their truecrypt container to the web via SSL. GPG should be included so the user can authenticate and confirm they are who they claim to be.

    The main problem is that most journalists are not hackers. So while you have the rare hacker/journalist who can create their own linux distribution, write their own software, or can fully make use of whats already out there, the product has to be simplified greatly before it will be good enough.

    • so why don't some slashdotters get together and do it? I mean, there are so many around here ready to draw Mohammed, at least some of them should have some reasonable skills that are of use in this case.
      I'm a physicist. I don't know enough, and in this thing you can't allow for mistakes; some people get caught and die.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by davester666 (731373)

      Yes, the NSA could help out making sure this distribution is secure...

    • by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Saturday June 26, 2010 @02:08PM (#32703502) Homepage

      I suggest that a Linux distribution designed specifically for journalists be created. Maybe call it Xerotrace. It has to be a liveCD, it can include Tor, Freenet, GNUNet, and encrypted truecrypt container for permanent storage.

      Several already exist [torproject.org].

      • by elucido (870205) *

        I suggest that a Linux distribution designed specifically for journalists be created. Maybe call it Xerotrace. It has to be a liveCD, it can include Tor, Freenet, GNUNet, and encrypted truecrypt container for permanent storage.

        Several already exist [torproject.org].

        And they aren't currently in development. I'm guessing governments got pissed off and threatened the developers with torture.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by anwyn (266338)

      It should also be designed to change the mac address before using any wired or wireless internet card.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:36PM (#32702968) Homepage Journal

    I tried to use it to post irrefutable evidence that president Obama is a goatfu"£$%£$%
    no carrier

  • by drijen (919269) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:43PM (#32703022)
    Why the heck would you allow non-hackers to protect you from the people you need to hide from?
    I seem to recall that a group like the pirate bay, who made it their business to mask identity from powerful interests created baywords.com for exactly this purpose.
    A misconfigured tor node or vpn stream could expose someone to torture or worse. A group like this needs to step back, and ask someone in the know to do it, and just offer funding.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Such a tor node could be government-run too.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @01:04PM (#32703104)

    In the past governments' have relied on information from foreign correspondents . . . either formally or informally. Who else can just walk around asking nosy questions about stuff? Repressive governments know this, and treat every journalist that way; even accredited ones from big international news agencies.

    Bloggers have a tougher lot: they are considered to be downright subversives. Ever see an old movie with a group of idealists printing anti-government fliers on a hand printing press in a dark basement? They are the bloggers of today.

    This is intrinsically a very dangerous business to be in. Secret police in these states tend to be very effective.

    As soon as this gets set up, I am afraid that the governments will just up the ante: try to infiltrate a false blogger, disband student organizations . . . whatever it takes to stop those presses in the basement.

    So, as I applaud this initiative, I am doubtful if this will be a "silver bullet" for the problem.

    And no, I don't have any other solutions, and applaud the courage of these folks.

    Oh, another thing . . . governments like to slip in "legal" spies in their embassies, usually with such titles as "Under-Secretary for Agricultural Exchange", or something like that. How do you spot one of these? From The Economist, "Look for someone who is obviously much too clever for his job."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by grcumb (781340)

      Oh, another thing . . . governments like to slip in "legal" spies in their embassies, usually with such titles as "Under-Secretary for Agricultural Exchange", or something like that.

      Cultural Attaché, usually.

      How do you spot one of these? From The Economist, "Look for someone who is obviously much too clever for his job."

      Bear in mind that these ones aren't really hiding. They won't admit to any espionage role; they assume you know what they are. They're in place to handle information on the cusp betwe

  • Erm... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    From TFA: "The Shelter is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. Anyone wanting to use it should make a reservation by sending an email to shelter@rsf.org."

    The rest of the time the Internet is, of course, closed.

  • quote: it's impressive to see an organization proactively seeking out individuals and offering them a digital shelter to protect themselves from a fate similar to that of the estimated 120 imprisoned bloggers around the world. I wonder what they mean when they say: "imprisoned"?
  • I have a question to the mods, why don't you mark this whole article as FLAMEBAIT???? In fact, what is flamebait?
  • The only "shelter" against censorship on the level we're talking about is a bullet to the head of the censor. (Or "removing the censors power or incentive to censor in general" if you happen to find bloodthirsty rethoric distasteful.) More specifically, if the censoring party has the competence and will to monitor the traffic for releases to wikileaks or similiar, they certainly have the means to just block the VPN service or just haul them in if they try to use it. "But they can't see/prove that they're ac
  • by westlake (615356) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @02:48PM (#32703756)
    The reporter whose life is in danger needs more than a virtual shelter for himself and his family. He needs a ticket out.
  • They get a goodly portion of their budget from groups like the American Enterprise Institute, the CIA-funded Democracy Project, and right-wing money conduits like the Olin Family Trust and Richard Mellon Scaife Trust.

    That's why they went berserk when Venezuela shut down several radio stations. Never mind that they had been officially notified multiple times over a three month period that they needed to fix their registrations for 1) allowing the registration to expire (sometimes for multiple years), 2
    • Where are my mod points when I need them. Mod parent up!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      They get a goodly portion of their budget from groups like the American Enterprise Institute, the CIA-funded Democracy Project, and right-wing money conduits like the Olin Family Trust and Richard Mellon Scaife Trust.

      Citation?

      • by cusco (717999)
        Start here:

        "http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_5852.shtml"
        "http://www.counterpunch.org/barahona05172005.html"
        "http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Reporters_Without_Borders"
    • "Somehow RSF never seems to have issues with Palestinian, Turkish and Ukrainian journalists jailed for not toeing the official line."

      I searched the RSF website and came to a different conclusion.

  • Never before? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WillKemp (1338605) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @06:33PM (#32705284) Homepage

    Never before have there been so many netizens in prison in countries such as China, Vietnam, and Iran for expressing their views freely online.

    That's mainly because never before have there been so many "netizens". There's been repression in all of these countries for a very long time now.

  • Wouldn't trust them (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Voline (207517) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @11:33AM (#32709068)

    Reporters Without Borders are primarily funded by the US government [zcommunications.org] through the National Endowment for Democracy which was founded during the Reagan administration to channel funds to organizations abroad that would support US foreign policy. Sometimes this funding is direct [ned.org], sometimes it is conducted through the international arms of the US Democratic Party or Republican Party [counterpunch.org].

    I'm sure that the US government would much prefer that whistleblowers send any leaked video of massacres by US troops or State Department cables to this new site rather than Wikileaks [wikileaks.org]. The only way it would be easier for them to discover the identity of the whistleblower would be if the leak went directly to the CIA with a return address.

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