8 sometimes ridiculous ideas for censoring the Internet
Public discussions and posting content on the Internet should be spontaneous and not censored. If there are taboo topics that can not be mentioned or are allowed, but only in the direction indicated by someone (and it is not known by whom), the freedom of expression begins to be embarrassing. This is how the then democratic countries operate, which are guided by legitimate intentions - they want to protect their citizens from undesirable content and the easiest way is to censor the Internet. The problem is that people do not know what is good and what is bad, so they democratically choose people who make them aware of this truth.
Referring to the new government initiative, let's look at the ideas of censoring the Internet - already implemented or just being planned.
Contrary to appearances, Internet censorship is not just about blocking banned domains - although this is the most frequently used form of the regime. Some governments go a step further and use IT to block human expression, including only to promote their own political programs and religious beliefs. Soon, and unfortunately in Poland, several ministries will gain access to information that was previously reserved only for the police and the prosecutor's office. At the beginning, most likely it will be as usual, that is, we will start by prohibiting only one branch of trade, which is mentioned in the bill, ie legal highs and psychotropes indicated by the government as illegal, later to expand the provisions of the law for further illegal areas, depending on what will be the "demand" at the time. The goal is noble, because it's all about our health. But is it possible to accept such form of internet censorship using such technological means?
For a moment, let us leave our domestic issues aside and look at how in other countries we are trying to censor the media and limit the freedom of media that flow from other than the state.
In 2016, a very controversial recipe was introduced in the United States that sparked protests. The amendment to the Rule 41 Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, ie Article 41, authorized federal judges to issue search and detention orders before 2016, but this required government agencies to obtain an order from a judge in a jurisdiction that included a search or detention facility. The current form of the amendment removes these restrictions, thanks to which the government may apply for a search warrant in one jurisdiction and conduct a remote search of computers located in another legal jurisdiction. The described changes apply when someone uses "technological means" to hide their location (Tor, VPN, proxy) or during analysis of botnets when infected computers are in 5 or more different districts.
Over 50 different organizations have expressed their opposition and concerns about the government's intentions. According to many experts and foundations, the United States government has written a law that is beneficial for itself, allowing it to be legally hacked on computers suspected of crimes. The organizations that did not agree to the amendment were: Internet Access Now, ACI-Participa, Advocacy for Principled Action in Government, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, and even Google and other public interest groups. Providers of privacy tools and Internet companies have united their activities by warning loudly before the changes. Global efforts to withdraw the proposed changes were even made by a former Google employee, but to no avail.
In fact, the US does not need to censor its Internet, although in the case of severe pornography and violent images it is socially acceptable. The States have sufficient financial and technological resources to cooperate with the services to obtain information about every citizen who connects to the Internet through servers in the US as well as beyond.
In Russia, censoring the Internet is something on the agenda. What's more, access to anonymizing tools is forbidden - maybe they should think about blocking all GitHub, which is just such a place in the network where basically everything is available?
Until now, the main telecommunications operator Roskomandzor blocked "illegal" sites: pornography, torrents and some political media that opposed or criticized the main political camp. It turned out, however, that it was not enough. Russia has gone even further. In July 2017, the use of VPN services was banned, which was a response to the update of the anti-terrorist law. The Act obliges all telecommunications service providers to limit access to prohibited content and store information about users on the basis of these provisions. In addition, the courts may confiscate their phones even without criminal proceedings.
An even absurd idea is to hire volunteers-censors who will do nothing but search for "illegal" (or politically ineffective) content. Of course, it involves denouncing your fellow citizens, but we know it from Facebook. A documentary film "Cleaners of the Internet" was created on Facebook. We encourage you to look at it.
The total isolation of Moscow officials is constantly on the head. The Russians are not afraid of being cut off from major communication hubs because (apparently) they are already working on an alternative, internal and controlled network. In their opinion, the West interferes too much with Russia's affairs. Especially the CIA, which if one believes Russia is credited with the creation of the Internet, is particularly troublesome.
Like Russia, China has also strongly opposed the use of VPN. They ordered three telecommunications giants to limit access to VPN to private individuals. They have not banned the use of VPNs completely - any citizen or company can report to officials such a desire and fully legal to encrypt their communication.
Some Chinese ministries see the benefits of promoting tourism on social networks. Even a project has been created that completely abolishes the censorship of social media on the southern island of Hainan. But just as soon as the document was published, it was removed in unexplained circumstances. Apparently work on the project has not been interrupted. Social networks in China are not illegal, but censorship of messages means that the Chinese do not have access to a lot of information.
Countries from the Middle East
Muslim countries have never been liberal in this respect. Although social networks are not banned in all (and political censorship is not common), Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which is heading in a dangerous direction, is the most conservative. So in Arabia, Sudan, Morocco or Ethiopia, everything that can only be censored is censored. Meanwhile, in Egypt, regulations were implemented to restrict access to free media under cover - and how - to the fight against terrorism and the dissemination of false information.
The new project assumes the collection and storage of information. There will also be closed parties that contradict content with the law, which is preventive. So we will collect everything about you and when we use it against you.
The country to which Poles are said to be most willingly is not free from censorship. There, for viewing websites that are considered illegal by the government, they may face imprisonment for up to 15 years. However, sites that host content in the United Kingdom that is contrary to the law will be removed. The rules on the fight against terrorism have been exacerbated by the increasing attacks. The government does not want to make it easier for potential Muslim terrorists to access Islamic extreme propaganda, i.e. immortalized heroic deeds of ISIS fighters are forbidden.
Prime Minister David Cameron commented on the new anti-terrorist law:
"We have introduced the most restrictive methods of control that are only possible in a democratic state (...) including blocking websites, we will take all these steps, and even go much further to ensure the security of our country."
The fight against terrorism can still be understood, but censorship is unofficially subjected (unfortunately) to other areas of social life. The government hinders access to some materials in public media, such as the mega loud, forced euthanasia of the disabled boy Alfie Evans. Anyone who has followed these terrible events must admit that if it were not for social networks, we would know about the matter as much as the official information would have been given. Thanks to the Internet, the case has been blown out all over the world and captured by all media. And rightly so. Unfortunately, the example of the deceased (and according to many people murdered) by Alfie Evans may be extreme, but we live in times that demand it.
Now something to calm down. In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to use torrents that violate copyrights and websites that serve video directly in the browser. Pornography is also censored - portals offering such content are required to remove entries from minors.
Recently, the UK was even accused of the idea that social networks pay news to state information agencies.
In mid-2017, a controversial act of censoring extremism on the Internet was adopted, taking into account the so-called hate speech. By the end, we do not know what hate speech is, but the best explanation for this term are arguments that do not please the other side of the conflict. So in Germany illegal content must be removed within 24 hours or you can be sent to prison. For so-called hate speech, for example in social media, large portals like Facebook and Google can receive a fine of $ 50 million for every illegal post. The number of comments added every day is so huge that the law is actually sterile.
The above regulations came into force in January 2018. They increase control over what is to be allowed on the Internet and what is not, although the Internet will never be a safe space. At that time, Germany was a country with unfavorable views on freedom of speech. Censored are racist or religious attacks against Germany and information inconvenient for the policy implemented by the chancellor.
In the public discourse on censorship in Poland, it often returns to the early days of the PRL, where the truth was distributed in the form of an underground press. Let's hope that our generation will never see these times, but judging by the impulses of the ruling class, it can be different. Julia Reda, a German MEP connected with the Pirate Party movement, published the position of individual countries during the vote on the "ACTA II" or "link tax" act. People representing Poland were in favor of censorship, although they expressed their skepticism about link taxes.
What is waiting for us in the future? Probably censoring "illegal" websites that will be entered into the register of domains banned as harmful to society. Such a register of prohibited websites will be prepared by various ministries, eg Finance, Infrastructure, Health and Digitization, and even the President of UOKiK, KNF and sanepid.
In this country isolated from the rest of the world, there is practically no free work, and all mass media are controlled by the government. Political propaganda pours out of radio and television receivers, and access to the Internet is very limited. Social networks or YouTube are not banned, but the people of the nation are available. Interestingly, North Korea has its own intranet, which is available to researchers, researchers, students and officials. Apparently also some Koreans use VPNs, so they have access to "western rot".
How is it really in North Korea? An interesting and direct source of information is Emil Truszkowski, who runs his channel on YT about North Korea. Another, more gloomy vision of this country is presented in the documentary film "The Mind Regime" and in the feature films "Keurosing" and "In the Internet".
Internet censorship: Universal tips and ways to bypass
Access to content considered illegal is blocked for various reasons. The easiest way to circumvent censorship is to use a VPN network. One of them is the Nord VPN recommended by us, which offers over 4000 output servers from 62 countries around the world. So there is a choice:
Applications are available on almost all operating systems: Windows, macOS, iOS, Apple, Linux and many more. NordVPN supports the P2P protocol (not all VPNs do), so you can download torrents without any problems. In addition, NordVPN uses its own DNS server, so no other DNS communication node will log websites visited. And most importantly, the company NordVPN is registered in Panama and does not store any logs - there is no such obligation. By purchasing NordVPN from this link you will get a discount.
After installing the VPN, it would take care of security and privacy - not because someone may have something to hide. The https://www.privacytools.io webpage should be absolutely added to your favorites. Its authors place interesting lists there. E.g:
- Why should not you use Windows 10.
- A list of recommended VPN providers (including the mentioned NordVPN with an affiliate link to our account).
- Recommended browsers that care about privacy (Mozilla, Brave, Tor Browser).
- Recommended browser add-ons: uBlock Origin, Self-Destructing Cookies, HTTPS Everywhere, Decentraleyes.
- Recommended hidden settings for the Mozilla Firefox browser (about: config).
- Alternative app stores and recommended software for Android.
- Postal service providers whose protection of privacy is a priority (among others: OpenMailBox, ProtonMail, Tutanota).
- Alternative e-mail software that allows you to maintain privacy and is based on P2P networks and decentralized communication without a management server: I2P-Bote, Bitmessage, RetroShare (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android systems are supported).
- Instant messaging services such as: Signal, Ricochet, ChatSecure - it is worth noting that there is no popular messenger on the list: Telegram, FB Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.
- Encrypted internet drives for file storage.
- Password managers: Master Password, KeePass.
- The list of countries where the user may be legally obliged to hand over to police authorities the encryption keys (Russia is among them, so fans who fear their data should be careful about what they are kidnapping). The website's authors exchange Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic as countries in which this law does not apply.
- Software for encrypting disks, emails, files: VeraCrypt, GnuPG, PeaZip.
- The site contains not only a set of tools and software, but also interesting information about countries involved in the collection, analysis and sharing of intelligence information.
More information on bypassing censorship, security and anonymity can be found in our security guide prepared for people leaving for Russia.
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