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Iranians and Others Outwit Net Censors


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Fulan Gong consortium founder Shiyu Zhou

Computer scientist Shiyu Zhou is a founder of the Falun Gong consortium, which maintains a series of computers in data centers around the world to route Web users' requests around censors' firewalls.

James Estrin / The New York Times

People around the world are circumventing their governments' censorship of Web content using tools developed and provided by a diverse coalition of political and religious activists, civil libertarians, Internet entrepreneurs, diplomats, military officers, and intelligence agents.

In Iran, Web filters and other government-authorized Internet obstructions are being subverted by software created by members of the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, based largely in the United States and closely associated with China's Falun Gong spiritual movement. Experts say the Falun Gong has up to now committed the most resources to thwarting repressive governments' Web censorship, constructing a system that facilitates open, unrestricted access to the largest number of Internet users.

Government censorship systems can block access to certain Internet Protocol addresses. In response, the Global Internet Freedom Consortium sends emails with links to software that connects to a computer abroad and then redirects requests to the blocked addresses. To stay ahead of government-tracking systems, the software keeps changing the Internet address of the remote computer.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit Tor Project freely offers software first developed at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratories that can be used to send clandestine messages or to reach blocked Web sites. The University of Hong Kong's Rebecca MacKinnon determined in a study that a large portion of blog censorship in China is performed by private Internet service providers rather than by the government.

From The New York Times
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