Global Voices Blog Critique from Jacob Appelbaum: My motivation for writing this response is to inform readers of the serious concerns that many people, myself included, have about the recent Freedom House report. I am always pleased to see more analysis of censorship circumvention and Internet security tools, but I have concerns about this report’s methodologies and resulting conclusions. The report in its current form could be dangerous to the users it aims to help.
The reporting methodology is sloppy at best and the information in the report is often inaccurate or poorly written. The report demonstrates a general disconnection from the language used by the projects and the circumvention community as a whole.
Internet censorship poses a large and growing challenge to online freedom of expression around the world. Censorship circumvention tools are critical to bypass restrictions on the internet and thereby to protect free expression online.
Circumvention tools are primarily designed to bypass internet filtering. Therefore, the core principle behind these technologies is to find alternative paths for data packets. These alternative paths use one or more collaborative servers in order to bypass the network of blocking mechanisms.
This document provides a comparison among different circumvention tools, both in terms of their technical merits, as well as how users of these tools describe their experience with them. The countries included in this report are Azerbaijan, Burma, China and Iran.
Phi Beta Iota: Within the emerging Autonomous Internet, these tools assume use of the existing grid, and can in turn be used by the authorities, sometimes with the collaboration of the Internet Service Providers, to identify dissidents. The Autonomous Internet seeks first to bypass local interception points (local solar-powered nodes using leased satellite communications), and ultimately to permit all individuals everywhere to enjoy the Internet for free and in liberty. Novices forget that anonymous is not the same as invisible, and that security is needed at the point of receipt as well (counter-intelligence outside the denied area is focused on identifying dissidents on the basis of leaks outside the denied area). NOTE: Freedom House has a trojan virus–if you don’t see the deletion notice your security program is not up to par.