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Twitter Developing Technology To Thwart Censorship 144

SHMG writes "Micro-blogging site Twitter is developing technology that will prevent government censorship, after Iran and China moved to censor its users. Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Twitter CEO and co-founder Evan Williams said the company was working on 'hacks' to stop any blocking by foreign governments. 'We are partially blocked in China and other places and we were in Iran as well,' he said. 'The most productive way to fight that is not by trying to engage China and other governments whose very being is against what we are about.'"
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Twitter Developing Technology To Thwart Censorship

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  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:50PM (#30928588)

    Whenever there was a coup attempt going on in the USSR, the first place to get invaded by supporters of the coup the was the broadcasters, and then they had to get to the newspaper before it published the next issue. If they win over the media, they were effectively in power. If the media reports there's a coup in progress, then that would scramble the defenders of the existing rulers and it would fail. If the media reports the coup was successful, then whoever was reported to be the leader effectively had power.

    This is why governments like Iran and China want to control all forms of communications. If people can organize in a way the government can't easily listen in on or censor, then the government is going to fail. As we have seen, a government doesn't need to be good at helping its people as long as its good at controlling them. Squash your opposing people, and you've got an easy time governing the rest.

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:58PM (#30928660) Journal
    'The most productive way to fight that is not by trying to engage China and other governments whose very being is against what we are about.'"

    That Google / Apple / Microsoft / etc. would ever make such a statement...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:09PM (#30928740)

    I hear what you are saying, and it all makes sense... ... It just feels like, as of late, people are a lot more complacent when it comes to challenging the power of their government. This isn't just a U.S.A phenomenon, it feels like it is a worldwide issue.

    Maybe, however, I'm just not tapped into this decade's "resistance for freedom" movements. But, once upon a time, it felt like real individuals could set examples of government defiance and cause the waves of change to splash. A simple refusal to stand up from a bus seat. A brave individual facing down a tank. A monk giving his life in the most painful of ways to let people know what he is fighting for. A person calling their representatives non-stop on an issue that is important to them. Thousands of people marching to let their voices be heard. There are tons of examples. It just doesn't feel like people really care anymore.

    Oh well.

  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:14PM (#30928778)

    My first question would be is peer-to-peer traffic regulated, and if so, how?

    Simple... controlling governments route all routes through the choke points. All traffic, even to the house next door, would have to go through the censorship point and then back to the destination.

    While the gov't might be able to cut off the main Internet egress points, all it would take is one person with a covert satellite link and a good p2p network.

    Simple... controlling governments ban satellite dishes.

    Or, maybe, a covert side channel on a bank leased line that runs to Switzerland, for example?

    Simple... controlling governments run the banks.

    How about packet radio?

    Simple... controlling governments don't allow consumer bandwidth. Try transmitting on an unlicensed spectrum here...

    Twitter isn't exactly super bandwidth intensive.

    Simple... controlling goverment loves things that are low-bandwidth and cleartext because that doesn't take much effort to scan what they've collected.

  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:41PM (#30929000)
    American news is the best you can get in the world. Woodward and Bernstein were able to publish news so scandalous it forced Nixon to resign. Does any other government allow that?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:51PM (#30929040)

    All european newspapers... And if you'd ever read any of them, you'd laugh at FOX news for the rest of your life...

  • by biryokumaru ( 822262 ) * <> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:58PM (#30929076)
    That's what I keep saying about defending Allah, but they still won't let me fly the airplane!
  • by jkajala ( 711071 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @11:13PM (#30929162) Homepage
    I seriously doubt it's the Twitter users who will start revolution, at least in China. The revolution is still alive in the masses of countryside, like before. Just look at the incidents which have sparked there recently. For example, in one province a slight rise of bus ticket prices resulted in violent demonstrations. I'm 100% sure none of them had ever heard about Twitter. Twitter has maybe ~0.3% reach in China compared to population, that's about less people than Beijing pisses off routinely at once by moving a whole city because of one more dam or railroad every few months. Still, I have to give credit to Beijing as well. China's growth and drive has been nothing but unbelievable. It would not have been possible without making strong and fast decisions without asking much from the people. It's very easy to build a railroad if you just relocate the people by sending them a letter with two weeks notice time. China is run more like a company than western countries, and western companies generally love it. At least as long as it doesn't cross their interests.
  • by grcumb ( 781340 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @11:22PM (#30929206) Homepage Journal

    American news is the best you can get in the world. Woodward and Bernstein were able to publish news so scandalous it forced Nixon to resign. Does any other government allow that?

    Uh, yeah:

    • Keith Murdoch [] (ironically, Rupert Murdoch's father) broke the story of the Gallipoli debacle. It was the first public sign that WWI was anything other than a noble fight without terrible consequences.
    • E. D. Morel [], who broke the story of atrocities in the Belgian Congo, as well as breaking the story that Great Britain and other allied nations had signed secret treaties that led to World War One.
    • William Russell [], whose descriptions of conditions during the Crimean War not only brought down a government, but led to fundamental changes in patient care in modern warfare.

    Journalism has been a dirty business from the get-go, but for as long as there have been newspapers, there have been intrepid reporters who actually care about the truth and made a difference when they told it.

  • by vampire_baozi ( 1270720 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @11:23PM (#30929216)

    While noone in China uses twitter enough to care even if Twitter found a way to "uncensor itself", if they could succesfully find a technical workaround that required no effort from end-users, it might be worth talking about (if my reading of TFA is right, any site could use such hacks to unblock itself, even google or dissident websites). However, if it forces end-users to install software to route around firewalls (a la Freedomgate and other already available software), the sites will remain unaccessible to the majority of users, who just don't care enough to bother.
    I'm honestly very curious as to what technical methods are out there for opening access through government firewalls that would not involve illegal and nearly impossible invasions into foreign computer networks. The Chinese and Iranian governments control the "pipes"; what software solutions could twitter possible be thinking of? Nice goal, but technically possible, beyond current "hacks/proxies"?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 28, 2010 @12:09AM (#30929456)

    Sorry, I had to stop reading your post when you wrote that 'the entire point of having more than one government' - as if this were a design decision.

    "Yes, we considered a global government but decided against such because of a...b.. and c..." and this is how we have the system we have today.

  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @12:49AM (#30929708)

    Most of the time it's not a problem of what governments allow, it's a problem of that sells papers. Gossip does, Watergate style involved reporting does not.

  • by countertrolling ( 1585477 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @01:29AM (#30929932) Journal

    Two things:

    First, it was a joke

    Second, it doesn't matter where you are. The ruling party is more than happy to throw a member(Nixon) or two under the bus as an exercise in theatrics to maintain its power. The Chinese put to death officials who get caught. And will be on the first page. Nixon drew a nice retirement package. The power structure remains intact. A triumph indeed.

  • by ydrol ( 626558 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @06:40AM (#30931450)

    Just about most countries in the Free world. But you wouldn't know about that would you? Sigh.

  • by oreaq ( 817314 ) on Thursday January 28, 2010 @10:56AM (#30933218)
    The existence of Jon Stewart only show that the methods of controlling the unwashed masses are far more sophisticated in the free world than they are in these backwards communist countries. Political satire is just a valve for all the frustration and anger that oppressive and lying governments cause thus keeping the system stable. Why do you think the king's jester was aloud to make jokes about the king?

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"