I remember, I think it was Northern Voice 2006, talking with Brian, D’Arcy and Alan about the “Google filtering Chinese search results” and “China banning wikipedia” stories. While I was just as willing as the next to shake my fist at the injustice of it all, at the time I also argued that if you understand networks and the technology of proxy servers, that this approach was doomed to fail, that the great firewall of China (or wherever) becomes just more damage to route around. Whether it be via mesh networks via radio or good old fashioned fidonet, there are many ways to get past this kind of control.
Here’s a new one you can participate in. Psiphon, developed by the Citizen’s Lab at U of T, allows individuals to form social networks that proxy web traffic in a way that no central censor will ever keep up with. See an illustration here that helps explain it. Instead of just a few central proxy server sites that authorities can block themselves, this turns any machine with an IP address into a potential proxy, but unlike more anonymous p2p approaches this works through the idea of small trusted networks. Have a friend in China, Saudi Arabia, or Iran, give them the gift of a free internet by running psiphon and providing them with a URL to start their anonymous surfing. No software, just a unique URL. Since I don’t know people in those nations, please let me know if you do. I’d like to help.
And as Quentin D’Souza noted, it’s not just big bad repressive governments who run firewalls that you might want to get around. He he.
And finally, props to CBC’s The Hour for apparently covering the story way back in December. – SWL