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How to Shut Down the 'Net: A Guide for Repressive Regimes


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#1 Hostile

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 05:48 AM

Facing student protests ahead of today's National Students Day — the anniversary of three student deaths in Tehran in 1953 — the state-owned Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) slowed or blocked completely access to the Internet for most of the state

The Internet may be a worldwide superhighway, but it's all to easy to shut it down. Governments aiming to squelch free speech in don't even have to work hard to do so: It's all too easy to restrict the Internet and keep their people in the dark.

The practice is all too too easy, and all too common.

First, the government talks to the major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that control the flow of data in and out of the country. Not every country has the wide array of ISPs we have in the United States. In many countries, people get online through a limited selection that are authorized to work in the country.

For example, there were only nine ISPs controlling the physical lines connecting China to the outside world in 2002, according to a BBC report at the time. That makes it much simpler for the regime to control information.

And China is well known for restricting access to the Internet for its citizens, a project the country calls "the Golden Shield." The rest of the world calls it the Great Firewall of China. With the agreement and help of those ISPs, the government can control traffic through a variety of techniques, including filters that control certain words, blocks in specific domains or users, even by blocking entire domains (such as .com or .net).

"Governments can censor Internet traffic using the same technology tools found in large corporate enterprises," explains PCMag.com lead networking analyst Samara Lynn. "Sophisticated security and network management appliances and software can be used to block specific keywords or categories from Internet searches, and they can perform DNS blocking and Web filtering."

Keyword blocking prevents people from searching for such obviously dangerous words as "freedom" and "democracy." Custom black lists also server to block content that specifically rankles the government. Is it unions, student protests or something else?

When the government catches someone searching for these terms, they can automatically turn off their access for a period of time. "If a user happens upon a site or search result that has been flagged unacceptable, that user's connection to the Internet can be dropped altogether for a specified period of time," notes PCMag.com's Lynn.

Beyond the technical, these regimes rely upon a hand-picked group to police access. The Iranian police recently created a special 12-member Internet police unit charged with acting "against fraud attempts, commercial advertising and false information" and hunting down "insults and lies."

Police Col. Mehrdad Omidi, who heads the Internet crime unit, specifically said that the 12-member unit will intervene in "political matters on the Internet should there be an illegal act." The official said the unit will operate under the direction of the prosecution office.

Local activists often struggle to work around these restrictions. During the recent Iranian election scandal, activists turned to social networks like Twitter and Facebook to spread information the government would otherwise oppress.

"I think the Iranian government is learning quickly how to control and contain these things," Andrew Lewman, executive director of The Tor Project Inc., told the Associated Press.

His group's free downloadable Tor program allows Internet users to work through a network of relays run by volunteers around the world to access blocked sites and hide what they are doing on the Internet. Active sessions using Tor in Iran have jumped from a few hundred before the election to thousands after, the nonprofit group said.

Other governments are actively trying to help out as well. In July, the U.S. Senate approved the Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act, which Congress hopes will strengthen the ability of the Iranian people get access to news and information and overcome the electronic censorship and monitoring efforts of the Iranian regime.

The bill authorized $30 million to support free radio broadcasts worldwide; $20 million to development technologies and Websites that will let Iranians gain access information; a report by the President on non-Iranian companies that have aided the Iranian government's Internet censorship efforts; and more.

If you're interested in helping out, there are several things you can do:

* Support Voice of America, the U.S. government funded radio station that broadcasts to over 125 million people a week.

* Post information about current proxies on your Web site. Proxies allow people to circumvent content filters; a list is updated weekly at VOANews.com.

* Spread the word about Freegate, software that lets people living in areas that restrict access view blocked sites.

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#2 Vortigern

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 11:09 AM

Man, I hate America. I mean, Iran's pretty bad too, but it's the USA that really made the bile rise in my throat over this one. They're trying to help by spending a measly $30 million (incidentally, the same amount as is being offered by FIFA as prize money for next year's World Cup - how's that for some perspective?) on throwing radios at a foreign country? What happened to the warmonger of just a few years ago who invaded Iraq for less reason than they now have to invade Iran? If we look at Iraq, let's recall: illegitimate dictator in power, large reserves of oil, no WMDs... I think that was it. And Iran: publicly fraudulent election after one candidate dropped out because of massive intimidation tactics, equally large reserves of oil, repression of freedom, still no WMDs. When can we expect the invasion?

This is just America's way, I guess. I guess nobody here would actually remember the Hungarian rebellion in 1956, but many of us will have studied it. The USA declared they would help any nation struggling against the threat of communism, but when Hungary rose up and pleaded desperately for American assistance, they refused. Apparently Hungary wasn't vital enough to risk a flashpoint in the Cold War, so thousands of people died after being misled by propagandist Americans. The last of them died while broadcasting across the world that America had promised them help and still maintaining hope that it would come. Way to let them down, USA. Empty promises and inconsistencies in foreign policy seem to be how the USA defines itself. Oh, that and the incredible arrogance that comes with having the most money. At some point maybe I'll post up a proper anti-America rant.
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#3 Hostile

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 04:48 AM

:cool2: Trying to figure out how this became an anti-American tyrate?

#4 duke_Qa

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 09:59 AM

Hehe, people find meaning in topics like the devil reads the bible :cool2:

Anyway, I've said it before and I'll say it again. The day we get a cheap way to get the most remote mountain goat connected to the internet with no possibility of the local Government to stop that communication, it will be a matter of years before they are able to hurt their governments. Satellite phones with internet access of sorts is prolly the simplest one. No local ISP's to go through, just Power your phone and PC and you are good to go. And it will be harder to trace the dissenter, since he's mobile and can easily move his equipment around.

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#5 Phil

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 05:19 PM

Yeah, I've read an article about satellite phones being the big hope of free information access but honestly, I don't see that coming any time soon. That technology is rather expensive, the state will try to control it and the satellite infrastructure is far from big enough to give all "oppressed" people access.

Today, the internet is just like telephone, radio or TV. Easily monitored or censored by state authority - not only in the East.

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#6 Allathar

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 05:36 PM

What happened to the warmonger of just a few years ago who invaded Iraq for less reason than they now have to invade Iran? If we look at Iraq, let's recall: illegitimate dictator in power, large reserves of oil, no WMDs... I think that was it. And Iran: publicly fraudulent election after one candidate dropped out because of massive intimidation tactics, equally large reserves of oil, repression of freedom, still no WMDs. When can we expect the invasion?


Well, there probably won't be an invasion in Iran unless uncle Sam wants to risk the entire Middle-East blowing up in his face, along with their oil. Everybody in the Middle-East hated Saddam as much as the USA did, they were like 'sure, go ahead, that will save us the risk and trouble of another war against him'. Nobody gave a shit about Afghanistan either. Iran, on the other hand, is a 'good' Muslim-state, and war against Iran may rally the entire Middle-East against the USA.
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#7 Ash

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 06:04 PM

Well, there probably won't be an invasion in Iran unless uncle Sam wants to risk the entire Middle-East blowing up in his face, along with their oil. Everybody in the Middle-East hated Saddam as much as the USA did, they were like 'sure, go ahead, that will save us the risk and trouble of another war against him'. Nobody gave a shit about Afghanistan either. Iran, on the other hand, is a 'good' Muslim-state, and war against Iran may rally the entire Middle-East against the USA.

What, as opposed to the wonderful approval rating they currently have?

:cool2: Trying to figure out how this became an anti-American tyrate?

I'd be more irked by Vort's comment if he was actually wrong. As it happens, he's dead right.

Man, I hate America. I mean, Iran's pretty bad too, but it's the USA that really made the bile rise in my throat over this one. They're trying to help by spending a measly $30 million (incidentally, the same amount as is being offered by FIFA as prize money for next year's World Cup - how's that for some perspective?) on throwing radios at a foreign country? What happened to the warmonger of just a few years ago who invaded Iraq for less reason than they now have to invade Iran? If we look at Iraq, let's recall: illegitimate dictator in power, large reserves of oil, no WMDs... I think that was it. And Iran: publicly fraudulent election after one candidate dropped out because of massive intimidation tactics, equally large reserves of oil, repression of freedom, still no WMDs. When can we expect the invasion?

Quoted for truth. Let's also reference Iran's equal love for killing people unjustly. Seriously, Iran and Iraq are identical except for in who's in charge, and one letter of the name.

This is just America's way, I guess. I guess nobody here would actually remember the Hungarian rebellion in 1956, but many of us will have studied it. The USA declared they would help any nation struggling against the threat of communism, but when Hungary rose up and pleaded desperately for American assistance, they refused. Apparently Hungary wasn't vital enough to risk a flashpoint in the Cold War, so thousands of people died after being misled by propagandist Americans. The last of them died while broadcasting across the world that America had promised them help and still maintaining hope that it would come. Way to let them down, USA. Empty promises and inconsistencies in foreign policy seem to be how the USA defines itself. Oh, that and the incredible arrogance that comes with having the most money. At some point maybe I'll post up a proper anti-America rant.

Let's not forget Afghanistan the first time round. Al-Qaeda was America's friend until the USSR gave up and fucked off. Then America just dropped them like a sack of shit.

#8 Beowulf

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 08:30 PM

Let's hear it for hindsight. :p

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