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Censorship The Internet United States Government News

US Tests System To Evade Foreign Web Censorship 219

D1gital_Prob3 excerpts from a Reuters story that says "The US government is covertly testing technology in China and Iran that lets residents break through screens set up by their governments to limit access to news on the Internet. The 'feed over email' (FOE) system delivers news, podcasts and data via technology that evades web-screening protocols of restrictive regimes, said Ken Berman, head of IT at the US government's Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is testing the system. The news feeds are sent through email accounts including those operated by Google, Microsoft's Hotmail, and Yahoo. 'We have people testing it in China and Iran,' said Berman, whose agency runs Voice of America. He provided few details on the new system, which is in the early stages of testing. He said some secrecy was important to avoid detection by the two governments."
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US Tests System To Evade Foreign Web Censorship

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  • Congratulations (Score:2, Informative)

    by yttrstein ( 891553 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:18AM (#29063981) Homepage
    You've invented Listserv.
  • Re:Right... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:19AM (#29063991)

    "D1gital_Prob3 excerpts from a Reuters story that says "

    Yes, because if Slashdot didn't pick it up no one would have ever seen it on that Reuters thingy.

  • Good stuff, but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by damburger ( 981828 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:33AM (#29064117)

    If this system is run by the US government, will they apply their own censorship? []

    the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) invented a way to let people in China and Iran easily route around censorship by using a U.S.-based service to view banned sites such as BBC News, MIT and Amnesty International. But an independent report released Monday reveals that the U.S. government also censors what Chinese and Iranian citizens can see online. Technology used by the IBB, which puts out the Voice of America broadcasts, prevents them from visiting Web addresses that include a peculiar list of verboten keywords. The list includes "ass" (which inadvertently bans, "breast" (, "hot" ( and, "pic" ( and "teen" (

    But it gets better...

    Instead, the list unintentionally reveals its author's views of what's appropriate and inappropriate. The official naughty-keyword list displays a conservative bias that labels any Web address with "gay" in them as verboten--a decision that affects thousands of Web sites that deal with gay and lesbian issues, as well as, a Roman Catholic site. More to the point, the U.S. government could have set a positive example to the world regarding acceptance of gays and lesbians--especially in Iran, which punishes homosexuality with death.

    So oppressed homosexuals in Iran found themselves circumventing the Iranian government only to be thwarted by the US government. But that isn't even the best bit.

    In an e-mail to the OpenNet Initiative on Monday morning, Berman defended the concept of filtering as a way to preserve bandwidth. "Since the U.S. taxpayers are financing this program...there are legitimate limits that may be imposed," his message said. "These limits are hardly restrictive in finding any and all human rights, pro-democracy, dissident and other sites, as well as intellectual, religious, governmental and commercial sites. The porn filtering is a trade-off we feel is a proper balance and that, as noted in your Web release, frees up bandwidth for other uses and users."

    Yes, there are legitimate limits to what taxpayers should cough up for - and I think helping a foreign government keep its gay population from accessing the wider international community most definitely falls into that category!

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:44AM (#29064207) Journal
    Yup, and it's quite an old idea. There used to be an app for the Psion Series 3 that did this too. The machine didn't have a native web browser, but if you bought the modem it came with a mail client, and there was a service you could use to get web pages as plain text (or possibly RTF). Back then, web pages didn't have frames or stylesheets and only had a few tags for text markup and occasionally images (but most people browsed with images turned off by default, because they took too long to load) so you didn't lose much.
  • Re:I'm confused here (Score:3, Informative)

    by JumperCable ( 673155 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:51AM (#29064271)
    Hard to say. If the program allows the individual to select their sources of news feeds & the US government does not hinder what they see then you accusation would be unfounded in this instance.

    Here is the big problem with avoiding censorship. It's a cat & mouse game. As soon as you find a method to circumvent a type of censorship, a suppressive government entity will try to find a way to either block it (or in some cases like Iran, just identify who is using it and block the user the old fashioned way).

    If you are curious to see what the global community (non-government based) is doing to assist Iranians have free open access to the internet check out []
  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @09:00AM (#29064363)

    This can help others where they can not see the content from the US. Hulu and others come to mind. Oh right, it isn't censorship if it isn't done by the government.
    Hulu has not been granted the license to distribute some content beyond the U.S. In some cases those distribution rights have been given to other entities, in other cases the rights may have been more expensive than Hulu wanted to pay, given the limitations of global-play ad sales.. In all cases, it was a business decision. Information may "want to be free," but network television does not. To even imply "censorship" is just ignorant.

  • Re:I'm confused here (Score:3, Informative)

    by jlar ( 584848 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @09:25AM (#29064591)

    Do you mean the US companies helped setup the filters in Iran? I thought that was European companies (Siemens and Nokia): []

    In China american companies like Yahoo, Microsoft and Google censor their search engines and content.

  • Re:Symmetry ? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Shihar ( 153932 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @09:27AM (#29064601)

    So the US govt is providing ways for foreign citizens to access content that is considered illegal in their countries...
    What would be the US govt reaction if some other country provides a way for US citizens to access content that is illegal in the US ?

    Exactly what it is currently doing? Nothing. Surfing from the US I have never had a government firewall block my access. What could a foreign government possibly do when the the US government does absolutely nothing? The US government only reacts to illegal content, it doesn't make any attempt to censor it. Further, its definition of "illegal" is pretty narrow. If you trade in kiddie porn, you might provoke the US to try and arrest you. Otherwise, the only danger the US government poses is that companies can use their courts to try and impose our insane copyright laws. There is a pretty limited class of illegal things you can do on the intertubes in the US. Censorship isn't the worry. Lawsuits are.

  • Re:Symmetry ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by cpghost ( 719344 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @09:34AM (#29064687) Homepage

    Such as copyrighted material which is legally downloadable in some parts of the world but not in the US?

    There's a precedent already: the US government used its leverage in the WTO to strongarm Russia to ban AllOfMp3.

  • Re:I'm confused here (Score:2, Informative)

    by EricX2 ( 670266 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @10:10AM (#29065067) Homepage Journal

    Is there a newer story then this: []

    Nokia: Finland
    Siemens: Germany

    Also, what does a company providing that technology have to do with whether or not the government approves it? If the government blocked companies from selling it, that would be censorship.

  • by SpooForBrains ( 771537 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @10:27AM (#29065303)
  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Friday August 14, 2009 @10:52AM (#29065653) Homepage Journal

    I heard their parliament is so afraid of ninjas they banned samurai swords

    Ninja used different weapons than samurais... shorter sword for indoor fighting, everyday objects convertible into weapons or concealable weapons that could pass for everyday objects... just sayin' :)

  • Re:Right... (Score:3, Informative)

    by SheeEttin ( 899897 ) <sheeettin@gmail.cEULERom minus math_god> on Friday August 14, 2009 @06:15PM (#29071741) Homepage

    how do you bootstrap this? (Ie, why not just block downloads of the application itself, or arrest everyone who does download it?)

    Get it before the government blocks it. If enough people get it, it'll be up in too many places for them to kill.
    Besides, even if the government blocks the official site ahead of time, it will still be redistributed by people outside the block, and the above situation will occur.

APL hackers do it in the quad.