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The Big Brother online: Internet censorship

PSI 2007 Kaido Kikkas. The Big Brother online: Internet censorship. This document uses the GNU Free Documentation License (v1.2 or newer). “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes). Ancient Egypt Greece and Rome (Socrates a.o.) in the Bible (persecution of prophets)

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The Big Brother online: Internet censorship

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  1. PSI 2007 Kaido Kikkas The Big Brother online: Internet censorship This document uses the GNU Free Documentation License (v1.2 or newer).

  2. “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes) • Ancient Egypt • Greece and Rome (Socrates a.o.) • in the Bible (persecution of prophets) • The Index Librorum Prohibitorum 1966 • The USSR: Bible smuggling • Today: from the US to Russia to ...

  3. Types • Moral - “inappropriate content” • Military – War on Terror etc • Political – supposedly does not exist... :P • Religious – see Denmark • Corporate - “no Sir, we are actually doing well”

  4. America the (not so) Beautiful • Strives to be a flagship democracy • Yet lots of examples of censorship • Comstock Act 1873 (The Federal Anti-Obscenity Act) • Voltaire, Chaucer, Boccaccio... • 1001 Nights • Dr Dolittle • Uncle Tom's Cabin (!!!) • Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn • ...

  5. An especially ironic case • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury • One of the best example of anti-censorship fiction • 1967 edition had “damn” and “hell” removed by publisher • Later another version with about 75 “corrections”

  6. Internet • Left alone for quite a long time • Most censors were just too different folks • Time, 1995 – feature story “Cyberporn” (as usual, later was found to be pretty incompetent)

  7. Why so much noise? • Access to information – a prerequisite for being a full citizen • Slaves do not need information • Information => power => money • Censorship <=> democracy by definition • Recently a growing problem in “democratic” Western world

  8. Calling names • Filtering - “let's get rid of junk” • Blocking - “denying access” • Censoring - “using power to deny access” • A good way to soften the public opinion

  9. A weird kind of American software • Just some products: • Bess (N2H2) • CyberSitter (Solid Oak Software) • CyberPatrol (SurfControl) • Net Nanny (Net Nanny Software) • NetRated (PC DataPower) • Smartfilter (Secure Computing Corporation) • Surfwatch (SurfControl) • I-Gear (Symantec) • Websense (Websense) • X-Stop (f8e6 Technologies) • ...

  10. How and where • DNS censoring • Filtering proxies • Keyword filtering • Closing ports (no bypass) • Whitelisting • IP blacklists • Other apps (server or client-side)

  11. “Spirit is thriving but flesh is weak” • Address filtering – even this does not work well • Keyword filtering – works worse • AI-based attempts – not even natural intelligence is often not enough to grasp legal texts... • Whitelists – why to use the Web at all (contradiction of purposes)?

  12. Smells bad • An almost unique to US, big business • Proprietary database => bona fide use (trade secret!) • The provider decides, not the user! • kept in dark, fed on shit • The situation tends to worsen

  13. The US landmarks • Constitution – the First Amendment • 1996-97 – CDA: turned down • 1997-98 – COPA: turned down • 2001 – CIPA: finally succeeded

  14. Some of the issues • Again: who decides? Even porn is not illegal in many places... • What about dynamic portals? • What about parents who are “different”? • What about privacy violations (“Aha! Johnny tried to access Playboy yesterday!”)

  15. All those smart systems • ... do not block all objectionable content • ... do block a lot of innocent stuff • ... tend to fall behind in time • ... can be fooled • ... are resource hogs

  16. What gets blocked • Some “bad” content • Lots of “controversial” material (birth control, minorities, human rights, women's and disability movements... And in the US, much more Democrats than Republicans) • A lot of really irrelevant stuff

  17. “Block me!” • An interesting side note: many controversial sites “cooperate” by actively promoting blocking measures on themselves • http://www.playboy.com/help/parents.html • “See, we try to help!”

  18. Censorware.net test case • CyberPatrol blocked soc.feminism, NetNanny, CyberSitter and X-Stop kicked out a number of women's organisations? What's the problem with ladies? • More X-Stop: • misc.headlines: SexActs Violence/Profanity • misc.health.injuries.rsi.moderated: SexActs Violence/Profanity • soc.feminism: SexActs Violence/Profanity • talk.abortion SexActs • rec.games.chess.analysis Quest/Illegal/Gamble...

  19. ... • Bess did NOT block www.hardcoresex.com... But took a number of weird sites instead • Lots of Linux sites went under Alcohol. WINE... • SurfWatch labelled the parody site plugandpray.com as Sexually Explicit • ... and blocked a site which advocated web filtering • BEWARE! The next slide is ...

  20. Hot Chick with Nice Pussy

  21. 1999: UNDP report • Most of the Arabic world had Internet access • BUT • censoring proxies • inflated prices (to keep ordinary Abdul away) • harsh legislation • surveillance/eavesdropping

  22. Three dangerous techniques • Direct connection to satellites • Strong cryptography • Anonymous remailers

  23. Pot, kettle... • "When the Declaration of Independence is banned from the citizens of Saudi Arabia so that they won't get ideas, we call it culturally backward. And when it's banned from our own libraries by our own government, then what do we call it?" - Michael Sims, Censorware Project • "Sir, request permission to read about molecular medicine, sir! " - from a critical article titled "Kill people, break things, stop looking at that“

  24. ... black • 9/11 – new rise in censorship • The Patriot Act in 5 weeks • Son of Patriot (Patriot 2) – crypto is illegal in some cases • 2002 – Homeland Security employs 160 000 “internal agents” • Carnivore and Echelon (the topic for a separate lecture)

  25. Recent examples • Google in China (self-censorship) • Google Earth cases in many places (India, China) • YouTube in Brazil • Various environmental issues (global warming) • All things Iraq

  26. Some places to visit • http://www.projectcensored.org/ • http://censorware.net/ • http://www.chillingeffects.org/

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