Tag Archives: Internet Censorship

Bloomberg: Russia Plans Break From Global Web

"Russian Federation (orthographic projection) - Crimea disputed" by FutureTrillionaire - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Russian_Federation_(orthographic_projection)_-_Crimea_disputed.svg#mediaviewer/File:Russian_Federation_(orthographic_projection)_-_Crimea_disputed.svg

(Source: Bloomberg)

Russia plans next week to discuss contingency measures to cut the country off from the global Internet in what the Kremlin called a necessary step to shield the nation from the U.S.-controlled worldwide Web.

Russia’s state security council will examine ways to ensure domestic users can be redirected to servers inside the country rather than relying on the U.S.-managed Internet domain-names system, the Moscow-based Coordination Center for .RU domain said by e-mail today.

“We need to defend ourselves from the U.S. and Europe,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said by phone today. “This is not about isolating ourselves, it’s about getting ready for possible cut-offs as countries that regulate the Web may act unpredictably.”

[…]Russia last month banned anonymous access to the Internet in public spaces and expanded the regulation of media to the blogosphere, requiring those with at least 3,000 daily readers to register their real names and contact information. In February the authorities had passed a law allowing them to close webpages without a court decision if material is deemed “extremist.”

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who used to criticize Putin and reveal corruption among his inner circle, was the first victim of that law when his blog on LiveJournal.com was shut in March. Recent legislation requires Internet companies to store Russian users’ information on servers in the country, similar to Chinese regulations.

Click here to read the full article on Bloomberg…

I expect this will only lower Russia on the Press Freedoms Index, where they are currently number 148 out of a possible 180.

This post is being tagged:  Why Shortwave Radio?

China blocks foreign websites for one hour

(Photo: International Herald Tribune)

(Source: The Guardian)

China’s internet users have been cut off from accessing all foreign websites for around an hour in an unexplained incident that sparked speculation the country’s censorship system was being tested or further tightened.

The “great firewall” already blocks many sites hosted from other countries, but users in Beijing, Shanghai and other parts of China reported that they could not reach any foreign sites whatsoever on Thursday morning – although it was not clear whether the problems were universal.

Meanwhile, users abroad and in Hong Kong – which is part of China but not subject to Beijing’s net censorship – said they were unable to reach any sites on the Chinese mainland.

Some believed it was purely a technical failure, with several suggesting that Wednesday’s massive earthquakes had hit an undersea cable, disrupting services. In 2007, a tremor hit a major cable and dramatically slowed access to overseas sites for months.

Xu Chuanchao, an executive at Sohu, one of the country’s biggest internet portals, wrote on his microblog: “This malfunction is caused by the failure of China’s backbone network and is under renovation.”

But one company, Data Centre for China Internet, posted: “Latest news: most foreign websites can’t be accessed. Analysis: for commonly known reasons, a large number of foreign URLs are blocked. It is possible that the great firewall is undergoing some readjustment, mistakenly adding many foreign websites to the blocking list. The details are unclear.” (Continue reading article…)

What is clear is that we know China actively blocks foreign websites that criticize their government.   The Chinese website of the Voice of America and Radio Canada International have been blocked for years.  China also censors search engine results.

I believe this incident was most likely a fault in their “great firewall” rather than any network backbone. International broadcasters should take note: as you pull shortwave services targeting China, how will your audience there hear you?

Censorship in Djibouti: International broadcasters, take note

I just caught wind of a now all-too-familiar story in international broadcasting–this time, via Reporters Without Borders.

While I encourage you to read the full press release below, the summarized story is that Reporters Without Borders has launched a mirror web site for La Voix de Djibouti, an independent news source in Djibouti. Why? Because the regime in power in Djibouti, in an effort to stifle the free press, have decided to block the primary website of La Voix de Djibouti.

The article states (we add the boldface):

A Europe-based exile radio station that supports the opposition Renewal and Development Movement (MRD), La Voix de Djibouti, began by broadcasting on the short wave and then switched to being a web radio, but the authorities have blocked access to its website from within Djibouti.

The decision to move off of shortwave has, in essence, severely limited their freedom of the press and their listeners’/subscribers’ access to information. Reporters Without Borders is addressing this censorship by actively creating mirror sites of La Voix de Djibouti that are hosted outside of the blocked domains.

This is admirable, and we strongly support their worthy efforts in creating mirror sites.  However, this solution is, at best, full of holes:

  1. How do those who wish to follow the news find each new mirror site after it has been blocked?  And presuming they can do so, how long will this take to figure out?
  2. Will the website reader be tracked by the government and/or punished for attempting to circumvent imposed blocking? (Hint: Most regimes now have tools to do this: read this and this.) Has anyone considered these consequences to any individual  caught for circumventing a blocked site?
  3. What if the regime decides to simply turn off the internet? Can they do this?  Sure they can…and frustratingly, they may.

As we’ve stated here many times before, the Internet is a wonderful information resource and it is proliferating across the planet. But with the Internet, as with FM radio, cable TV and terrestrial TV, repressive regimes can and do hold the power button, as well as the ability to control the content, or even take it over.

Shortwave radio is comparatively immune to this, and moreover, is untraceable. When we eliminate the infrastructure that supports shortwave broadcasting (as is happening at RCI Sackville) we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Poor child.

Full article as follows:

(Source: Reporters Without Borders)

4 April 2012–Reporters Without Borders has today launched a mirror site of radio La Voix de Djibouti’s website, http://lavoixdedjibouti.com, in order to help circumvent the government’s censorship and allow the population to have access to a news sources to which it is being denied.

The media freedom organization invites Internet users to go to http://lavoixdedjibouti.rsf.org in order to access an exact copy of the original site.

“As this is a country without media freedom, where only government propaganda is tolerated, we think it is crucial to help the population to gain access to other news sources,” Reporters Without Borders said. “While it is true that the level of Internet use is still low in Djibouti, it is not negligible, and use of social networks in particular is growing. The population will now be able to read critical news bulletins online.”

A Europe-based exile radio station that supports the opposition Renewal and Development Movement (MRD), La Voix de Djibouti began by broadcasting on the short wave and then switched to being a web radio but the authorities have blocked access to its website from within Djibouti.

So that independent news websites that are targeted by cyber-attacks and government blocking can continue posting information online, Reporters Without Borders has started mirroring sites. The first sites to be mirrored were those of the Chechen magazine Dosh and the Sri Lankan online newspaper Lanka-e News. The organization has also been urging Internet users all over the world to create more mirrors of these sites in a chain of solidarity.

Mirror sites can be used to circumvent blocking by governments. Although the government of Djibouti is blocking access to La Voix de Djibouti’s site, http://lavoixdedjibouti.com, by blocking the site domain name or the hosting server’s IP address, Internet users can still access the Reporters Without Borders mirror site, http://lavoixdedjibouti.rsf.org, because it is hosted on another server with another domain name.

The mirror site will be regularly and automatically updated with all the new content posted on the original site. If the mirror is itself later also blocked, the creation of further mirror sites together with a regularly updated list of these mirrors will continue to render the blocking ineffective in what is known as a Streisand effect.

Reporters Without Borders urges Internet users who want to help combat censorship and have the ability to host a site on a web server to follow suit. Send the URL of the mirror site you have created to wefightcensorship [at] rsf.org. The next mirroring operations launched by Reporters Without Borders will be reported on the @RSF_RWB and @RSFNet Twitter accounts with the #RSFmirror hashtag.