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Censorship Privacy The Internet Your Rights Online

The Coming Censorship Wars 197

KentuckyFC writes "Many countries censor internet traffic using techniques such as blocking IP addresses, filtering traffic with certain URLs in the data packets and prefix hijacking. Others allow wiretapping of international traffic with few if any legal safeguards. There are growing fears that these practices could trigger a major international incident should international traffic routed through these countries fall victim, whether deliberately or by accident (witness the prefix hijacking of YouTube in Pakistan last year). So how to avoid these places? A group of computer scientists investigating this problem say it turns out to be surprisingly difficult to determine which countries traffic might pass through. But their initial assessment indicates that the countries with the most pervasive censorship policies — China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia — pose a minimal threat because so little international traffic passes their way. The researchers instead point the finger at western countries that have active censorship policies and carry large amounts of international traffic. They highlight the roles of the two biggest carriers: Great Britain, which actively censors internet traffic, and the US, which allows warrantless wiretapping of international traffic (abstract)."
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The Coming Censorship Wars

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21, 2009 @05:54PM (#27282549)

    Eventually the internet will treat the USA as damage and route around it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by peragrin ( 659227 )

      then what of Britain or Australia or france, which already use censorship on it's people.

      Soon there won't be places to route the damage around.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So what? Here's another quote:

        As Confucius said, if rape is inevitable, lay back and enjoy it.

      • by squidinkcalligraphy ( 558677 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:47PM (#27283555)

        Australia doesn't _yet_. The govt is trying to set up a system, but hasn't got there yet

        • really they have a blacklist that has been blacklisted itself.

          if you have a list and are actively adding sites to that list. then your simply waiting for the hardware updates to enforce said list.

        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          Australia doesn't _yet_. The govt is trying to set up a system, but hasn't got there yet

          And they wont. They don't have the majority in parliament, Labour relies on the minor parties to get anything through, with Greens and Xenophon (Independent) offside they have no chance of getting this through. It's dead already.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

        Australia doesn't censor the internet.

        We still have the right of free-speech for now.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by fostware ( 551290 )

          Australia does not have the "right to free speech".

          Nowhere in our constitution do residents have "free speech". we've assumed it comes from the UN's Human Rights, but it hasn't been enacted in law, so courts are not required to acknowledge it's existence.

          For a sobering read : []

          • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

            We DO have free-speech that is granted to us by our societies moral codes.

            Just because it isn't on paper it doesn't mean it is not there. However not being on paper means it is under constant threat, this threat is now being highlighted for us.

    • by unlametheweak ( 1102159 ) on Sunday March 22, 2009 @05:40AM (#27286657)

      You are labeled a Troll, but I do distinctly remember reading an article that explains that a lot of ISPs do actually route around the USA because of its surveillance policies. Actually, it was quite easy to Google for information: The Internet interprets the USA as damage and routes around it []. Your Troll moniker is certainly unjust.

  • skibaldy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by skibaldy ( 35022 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @05:54PM (#27282555) Homepage

    A society that uses Censorship must have something or someone to hide.

    • Re:skibaldy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DavidR1991 ( 1047748 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @06:20PM (#27282787) Homepage

      I'm kind of on the fence about my country's censorship (The UK, that is). As far as I know, it's only child porn that is actively censored, and whilst I don't mind it being censored due to what it is, it does spark the question "Where will it stop?"

      The other problem is that they don't censor everything else that's illegal - so should they continue to censor child porn and nothing else, or censor everything illegal? Or abandon all censorship? It's a tricky conundrum once it starts to involve the law :/

      • Re:skibaldy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @06:28PM (#27282839)
        Take a look at the USA constitution to see where will it stop. The answer is, it won't ever stop. Whenever a government manages to circumvent a freedom for some "great" reason, they continue, and continue, and continue. First they let wiretaps be admissible in court, today, the government via the "Patriot" Act allows any US citizen to be wiretapped to fight against "terrorism". Its a downward spiral, first its always something that most people agree with, then they start rapidly expanding and next thing you know you are living under tyranny.
        • Re:skibaldy (Score:4, Interesting)

          by mrmeval ( 662166 ) < minus herbivore> on Saturday March 21, 2009 @08:48PM (#27284067) Journal

          Well you might go back to Lincoln or a bit later to the national fireamrs in the 1930's act or the 1968 gun control act or the 1986 out ban on new NFA registries or the go back to the era of the NFA and the tax on hemp which became a ban because you can't pay the tax.

          Governments are made of two kinds of people, those that really serve the people and those that serve the system. Those that serve the system end up running it. That's Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy


          You can't change it, you can't steer it with any precision and you can't make it go away easily.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dryeo ( 100693 )

            Do you really think that in government (at least above the local level) there are some that mostly want to serve the people?
            To quote Lazarus Long
            Political tags-such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth-are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those want people controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are curmudgeons, s

        • by mckyj57 ( 116386 )

          Terrorism could be in quotes if three thousand people had not died on 9/11.

          -1 disagree with everything you said, including your sig. 8-)

          • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) *

            -1 disagree with everything you said, including your sig. 8-)

            Same to you.

            The word terrorism is put into quotes most often because it is perceived to be bullshit that the government is actually using it to fight terrorism. Now I understand that it might offend you if it was put into quotes and you interpreted that as somehow trivializing the loss of 3,000 Americans on that day. However, your are wrong about why he was doing it.

            In any case, I don't find the death of 30,000, 300,000 or 3,000,000 Americans ca

      • Re:skibaldy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @06:44PM (#27282995)

        I'm kind of on the fence about my country's censorship (The UK, that is). As far as I know, it's only child porn that is actively censored

        The trouble is with that "as far as I know". Even the government doesn't actually know what's being censored. It's been completely handed over to a self-appointed body, with no oversight, no accountability and no appeal process. And why do you think it's only child porn being censored? Because the censors say so. What's wrong with this picture?

        • Re:skibaldy (Score:5, Informative)

          by badfish99 ( 826052 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @06:59PM (#27283135)

          We know for sure one thing that the UK tried to censor: the album cover image on Wikipedia. We only found out about that one by chance. Presumably they censor many more things like that, that we haven't found out about. And since the item in question had been openly on sale for many years, we know that it is certainly not illegal.

          • Re:skibaldy (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:09PM (#27283233)

            I found the Australian and Danish block lists on Wikileaks, and a random sample weren't blocked by my big-name UK ISP. I checked all the ones that looked like they shouldn't be blocked at all (shock sites, anti-abortion etc). I didn't want to look at all the child porn, but I tried about 5 and the home pages all loaded.

            The censoring in the UK is at the level of the home user's ISP anyway, so there's no need to "route around" anything. It's inaccurate to say Great Britain (well, the UK) censors Internet traffic. The government has asked ISPs providing connections to home users to filter DNS requests for some websites. This is nothing like the Chinese Firewall, for instance.

          • by Kjella ( 173770 )

            And since the item in question had been openly on sale for many years, we know that it is certainly not illegal.

            Yes, because we've never made something that was legal in the past be illegal now. Some of that good like say end of slavery, probably some of it bad but to deny it happening requires truly profound ignorance.

            • by Toonol ( 1057698 )
              The item in question was legal at the time and still legal now. They censored an image that wasn't, never was, and still hasn't, ever been illegal. Evidently, it was censored because they just didn't think it ought to be looked at. Nobody should be given that authority.
      • Re:skibaldy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mazarin5 ( 309432 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @06:49PM (#27283049) Journal

        As far as I know, it's only child porn

        "Where will it stop?"

        As far as you know, only child porn. What you don't know is the problem with censorship in the first place.

      • by Tuoqui ( 1091447 )

        Well if you want to get into technicalities...

        Making child porn is a result of an illegal act. I would assume that things such as 'rape' would also benefit from such censorship as well. Taping an illegal act and distributing that tape and/or selling it is an illegal act itself because you could not have done such without committing a crime in the first place.

        Making a bomb/explosive is generally illegal (usually there are some exceptions which permit making of small harmless amounts for pyrotechnic and firew

  • Begun (Score:5, Funny)

    by memorycardfull ( 1187485 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @06:06PM (#27282683)
    these [censored] wars have.
  • simply put (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    In few years the Internet as we knew it will become a Frankennet made of closed bubbles that will talk each other only through heavily filtered pipes. Every nation will spy on its own citizen and impose filters to limit or stop connectivity when necessary.
    Freedom of communication is simply a too dangerous weapon to be left in the hands of common people.
    AFAIK, this process already started a few years ago.

    • by skibaldy ( 35022 )

      If your so sure of your self tell us who you are :)

      I may have British heritage...

      Dude, I'm 100% American

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      There's some validity to that, but remember that routing protocols designed for ad-hoc networks can be used in what is called an "over-net" to bypass these restrictions. Censored paths would be detected the same way that broken ad-hoc paths are, and simply bypassed. I imagine techniques such as TOR already use routing concepts either along these lines or (by now) more advanced.

    • Nice, true, etc. but everyone here on /. already knows that. Now, what can we do to stop it, hm?
  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @06:23PM (#27282803)

    Any country with an active sigint program is snooping international internet traffic coming through their pipes. After all, that is the job of an intelligence agency. Only questions are to what degree and sophistication. Oh, and here's a list of countries with SIGINT programme.,_Nations_and_Industries []

  • by owlnation ( 858981 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @06:23PM (#27282811)
    I'm not sure who we are talking about. Who is it that needs to avoid countries actively censoring?

    Considering the countries actively censoring or monitoring I'm aware of are: USA, UK, Germany, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Austria, Australia, China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. I'm sure there also many more.

    Are we talking about Latvia trying to route to Luxembourg here? Who?

    Surely... The sane thing to do is to actually stand up and stop governments censoring and monitoring, rather than talk about some small country re-routing to another. Look at the list above, that's probably 75% of the internet there (I'm guessing that figure).

    Re-routing is a sin of commission. Lets actually fix the fucking problem, rather than step over it. Our Governments do not represent us any more. Get them out of office. Make your voices heard, while you still actually have them.

    Or are you just going to sit there and take it? The time to act is now, not soon, nor when it gets really bad.
  • I was under the impression that Great Britain does not censor the internet. ISPs operating within it can, and several do, choose to sign up to a voluntary scheme (which includes ISPs on the board []).

    Regardless, to my (limited) knowledge filtering is done by blocking certain addresses to the consumer, nothing that would hit through-traffic.

    As for snooping, wherever your traffic is passing through, either you have good encryption or someone can look in. Perhaps with varying degrees of (il)legality, as if that

    • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @06:31PM (#27282871)
      How is that voluntary? In most cases you can only slightly "choose" your ISP, and even then you simply have to get the least evil. Voluntary for the ISPs, but that is not voluntary for the end user, not in the least.
      • by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:14PM (#27283277)

        How is that voluntary? In most cases you can only slightly "choose" your ISP, and even then you simply have to get the least evil. Voluntary for the ISPs, but that is not voluntary for the end user, not in the least.

        In the UK, if you can get ADSL you can choose *any* ADSL provider. All the phone lines are owned by the ex-monopoly (BT), but BT are required to lease the line to any broadband provider the customer chooses.

        At the moment, the ISPs that don't censor are the smaller ones, which tend to be slightly more expensive -- but also provide better customer service etc.

        • by haruchai ( 17472 )
          Here in Southern Ontario, you can get ADSL from Bell Canada resellers. The problem is that Bell is still the upstream for all of them. So while you may get different pricing and terms of service, when Bell decided to traffic shape, it did so for everyone's customers, not just their own. And, so far, there's not a damn thing we can do about it, except go to cable internet, which in my area means Rogers - I'll save that for another discussion
  • They highlight the roles of the two biggest carriers: Great Britain, which actively censors internet traffic, and the US, which allows warrantless wiretapping of international traffic

    Wire tapping isn't censorship last I checked. Censorship requires active suppression. Perhaps wiretapping may cause self censorship because one could think that they shouldn't say something?

    That being said - the fact that traffic is monitored should be a given. Thus the raison detre for encryption. Anyone that worked in the

  • There will always be one ISP that does not monitor it's traffic. Why? Because that's where the business will lie once all the other ISPs have monitoring equipment in place (even if it is imposed upon by the government). Not to say this will be in the U.S., but there will always be that one country. And on top of this, who is to say that encryption techniques won't make this argument obsolete anyway? If monitoring does break out on a wide scale, I see many, many websites turning towards things such as IPSEC

    • There will always be one ISP that does not monitor it's traffic.[...] Not to say this will be in the U.S., but there will always be that one country.

      Well a non-monitoring ISP in Japan is not going to help US customers much. Even if they'd lay a cable from the ISP directly to the user's house - once the cable enters US territory it's under US jurisdiction. I grant you - encryption, proxies etc can help (provided it won't be outlawed again) but that works regardless whether the ISP monitors traffic. Also mo

  • Every government watches communications and Internet traffic. It's their job. But it doesn't constitute censorship if it just watches instead of filters or even modifies the content.

  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:01PM (#27283161)

    If these piss-ant dictators and foaming moralists won't leave well enough alone, we'll just have to encrypt (TOR) the lot of it.

    I am really serious. If we don't start using encrypted traffic
    routinely and by default on the Internet soon, then doing so
    will without doubt be made illegal.

  • by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:24PM (#27283363)

    There are growing fears that these practices could trigger a major international incident

    Just wait until the print newspapers are gone. When the only source of news is via the internet...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Yeah, I *hope* those completely unbiased print newspapers that provide me with the news the second they happen and offer completely relevant information while not charging me any money don't ever disappear.
  • Who cares? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @07:54PM (#27283599)

    Not about the censorship, that is an issue if you live in a country that does it, but the monitoring? I mean really, do you assume your traffic is private? If so that's a really bad idea. I've always assumed that my traffic going over the net could be watched. Governments aren't the only people who could watch you. For example at work, we have a packet sniffer to help diagnose problems. Usually it sits idle watching nothing. However we can watch any traffic we like, and can do so invisibly. If I want I can mirror a port and watch everything someone does.

    So you should always operate under the assumption that your traffic could be watched. Your ISP, another ISP, your government, another government, a crafty hacker, etc all could watch what you are doing. That means that if what you are doing needs to be kept secret, encrypt that shit. Don't send passwords. credit card numbers, etc in clear text. Use things like SSH/SSL for important stuff. Heck use them for non important stuff too if you like, it isn't as though encryption hits modern computers that hard these days.

    Point is I don't see why as an individual you'd worry if a foreign country is monitoring your traffic. They could just be one of many. I can see concern if your government is monitoring your traffic, and especially if they are censoring your traffic, but in general, assume shit you do on the Internet is watched.

  • [This Comment Was Deletey By The Slashdot Censorship Moderation Panel]

  • Circumvention (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thethibs ( 882667 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @08:17PM (#27283789) Homepage

    In the end, anyone with an IP address can act as a host or relay. If something wants to get through, it will.

    There was an advantage to the uucp forwarding network, in that routing could be managed and the number of possible paths was immense. Anyone with a basic PC and a modem could install Waffle and become a uucp node. For two years when the wall was still up, I had an ongoing conversation with a mathematician/cryptographer in Minsk (no Tom Lear jokes, please). I was always concerned that the Soviets would find him out, but he never shared my concern. Messages between us usually took more than twenty hops, one of which was a diskette hand-carried between East and West Berlin.

    A little-known fact is that the fall of the Soviet Union was in part coordinated via email carried on uucp and fidoNet []. Mainly this was because these networks ran "below the radar", from one phone to another and could change their locations at will. There also was an advantage in these networks' use of Zmodem for exchange. Zmodem's error correction, rate adjustment and pig-headed retry made sure the message got through in spite of the really poor state of Soviet phone service.

    The Internet's biggest weakness right now is that most of the traffic ends up on a small number of backbones. The only thing standing between the current tree-structured internet and a true network is incentive. Censorship would probably stimulate a change in topology.

  • by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Saturday March 21, 2009 @09:16PM (#27284285)

    This article points to one very real problem with censorship. Once one party assumes the right to censor then all parties, everywhere assume the same privilege. The simple fact is that any censorship, no matter how seemingly innocent, is an attack upon the freedom of all people in all nations.

  • by AnalPerfume ( 1356177 ) on Sunday March 22, 2009 @01:34AM (#27285865)

    Before the internet the only way you could have a voice that told a story to a large amount of people was to publish it, which cost a LOT of money and had a gatekeeper (editor) to decide if it was suitable. If your story was exposing corruption within a corporation and that corporation sponsored that publishing house, you have zero chance of it getting published. Publishing is not just the cost of printing, but the distribution network to get it to a large number of widely spread out locations. You could print the story yourself which would cost a small fortune, then drive around delivering it yourself which would cost another small fortune in fuel bills. Then your next problem is how to recoup your money. That's just the print industry. TV and radio are even tighter controlled and much more expensive to break into.

    The point is that before the internet the elite had control over the gatekeepers; the gatekeepers can now be bypassed by anyone with access to the internet.

    Even when PC's were still very expensive and programs were still complicated, knowledge like how to put up a website was seen as having skills beyond the normal user, internet censorship wasn't really an issue. From there grew some things that weren't illegal at the time but gradually became illegal like publishing child porn. The only reason these types of things weren't illegal in the first place is that when the laws were written they didn't foresee this "internet thingy" and had to be amended to take it into account.

    As PC's get cheaper and easier to use, as services pop up that make it easier and easier, not to mention cheaper or even free for average non-technical users to set up some web presence. Throw a stick and you find plenty of examples from MySpace, Facebook, WordPress etc. This means that all those voices who had knowledge of some wrongdoing now have a voice and are increasingly willing to use it. It means that everyone willing to try and scam someone from a safe distance now has a way to do it. It means that everyone with an agenda (good, bad or just sad) now has a way to organize and recruit.

    As people spend more and more time with online services which they are interacting WITH other people instead of being a target being sprayed with adverts from corporations in the hopes of leeching some cash for shit they didn't really need. Not only does that take their time and loyalty away from the traditional media companies, it also exposes them to different stories than they see in the mainstream, or different versions of the same stories. That's not to say everything they see / hear / read online is true, but then again that is also true of the mainstream media corporations who they previously DID believe to be true......before the internet made them skeptical.

    Without this free access to publishing online, sites like wikileaks would never have gotten than knowledge to the masses. By "the masses" we're not just talking one country, we're talking "the whole planet". Well the whole planet who have not censored them. Without the internet that knowledge would never come out, and the corporations involved would continue to get away with murder because they control the gatekeepers of the knowledge. Any who step out of line have work addresses which can be visited by some "re-educators" with baseball bats. The internet has changed all of that, it's no surprise that the elite are scrambling around trying to silence stuff, they have a LOT of skeletons in their closets which would seriously damage their liberty, money or their reputation which they've carefully managed over the years by controlling the gatekeepers. In short, they have lost control, internet censorship is the only response they have to regaining that control.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I had a few more thoughts while making coffee and since /. won't allow editing of your own posts I'm forced to reply to mine, would have been in the post above if I chose not to publish before making coffee.

      When people can set up as bloggers and gain credibility as a reliable source of information based on what they say, this has to be seen as dangerous to the mainstream. It can cut though a lot of money slushing around to get a controlled message out, only to find the controlled version is bei

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein