Why Internet Censorship Doesn't Work: How To Avoid Being
The ongoing argument over censoring the internet from copyright pirates would be a valid
debate...except for the many methods to circumvent the blacklisted sites. This writer could not be
more supportive of the goals of the associations that are pressuring the courts,lawmakers, and
internet providers. The British courts have made a landmark decision that forces one provider,British
Telecom (BT,) to blacklist one service. Many are starting to wonder as to who will be footing the bill
for BT's new found authoritative responsibility.
But criminals will be criminals...and there are already ways to circumvent the blacklist that BT has
been ordered to impose on the Usenet search engine. The measures being taken to remove Newzbin
from the view of British internet surfers likely will be fairly simple...and, as has been shown with
blacklisting attempts by authorities in other countries, can often easily be circumvented. Here's a few
of the more common methods used in the past to block websites...and the more common methods
used to circumvent them. I am putting these here not in an attempt to tell people how to get around
the blocks, but to educate others as to the weak manner in which authorities are attempting to protect
copyright holders from copyright infringement.
Note that this section has very few ways for the provider to censor a website. Truthfully, the only real
way a provider could stop their users from accessing the data that is being infringed is to physically
unplug the server from the net. Short of that, BT will probably use a modified version of "Cleanfeed."
This is a program they have been using in the past to filter out porn websites with a fair amount of
success...unless you count the Wikipedia censor...I don't really understand that, but then neither do a
lot of Brits.
On the right there is a block diagram I made from info I found laying around on the internet that shows
how this system actually works. What hasn't been so easily determined is the criteria that a site must
make to get listed on the blacklist...and is there a process for getting a site reinstated? Wikipedia was
blocked by Cleanfeed for a photo of a Scorpions album cover on one of their pages.
The IWF, or Internet Watch Foundation. The first organization of it's kind that is maintaining and
building a list of websites that are in violation of the EU regulations. And, some of the biggest
providers in Europe are members, just to name a few: Sky, Talk Talk, Virgin Media, and PlusNet. The
foundations lists are updated twice daily, and the operators are kept up-to-date on the latest internet
regulations for their community. They have a hotline for consumer reporting of possible regulatory
violations, and there is an appeals process...but, the site owners aren't notified of being featured on
their list. If an owner wants to appeal the blacklisting of their site, consider the Wikipedia/Scorpions
listing that still hasn't been reinstated.
Censoring isn't new...and there are more ways than one to censor or block access to websites.
Dictatorial regimes all over the world are using everything their techs can think of...and getting beat
by the average user. Well, maybe not the average user, but it doesn't take much tech savvy to use
some of the methods I describe here...just a little persistence.
Use A Different ISP - This method, while the easiest to do, isn't always the best...especially if you
have a funding issue. Getting service from another neighboring region or country that isn't censored
may be expensive, but it is the safest way to avoid detection, too.
Use A Domain Name Server (DNS) That Doesn't Censor - Usually you would be connected to the
DNS server of your ISP, but you can change that...it's not really all that hard, and requires no special
software to change it. There are lists of uncensored servers on the internet, but try to use the
uncensored server nearest to your home for the best results.
Proxy Servers - A proxy server is a computer you are connected to (usually securely connected) that
will get the request, and deliver it to you. Many proxies use a cache to speed the process up and
control the costs. There are common and uncommon proxies, and many of the common ones are
blocked already, so if you live where the censorship is heavily guarded, use the uncommon proxies.
Using P2P Programs - This is one of the more common ways that people use to get around the
blockage. There are a lot of Peer-2-Peer programs out there, like Kazaa, eDonkey, and Freenet.
Freenet is one of the oldest censor avoiding programs available and seems to be working well
globally for the last few years.
Special Services - There are a lot of Usenet servers all over the world, so you should be able to find
something close to your area. This method will cost you a little, providers vary, but around $10 - $20
per month is the average, but the service is really worth it. You will have to have a client, but most
clients have a VPN, like VyprVPN. With all the global talk of censoring, these services are quickly
becoming more popular.
Censoring may not be the best way to prevent website owners from placing illegal material on their
websites, but steps need to be taken to curb this kind of behavior. Censoring punishes everyone for
the things only a few do...there has to be a better solution. In the meantime, censoring is what they
have contrived to stop the infringement, and illegal. And, as we stated here, there are many methods
for getting around these restrictions, and even more being developed daily. I recommend Virtual
Private Networking...it's extremely hard for the snoops to see what you are up to, and the privacy is
well worth the few dollars I spend on it each month.
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