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Last Updated: Monday, 27 November 2006, 12:20 GMT
Web censorship 'bypass' unveiled
Man at computer
There is growing concern about web censorship
A tool has been created capable of circumventing government censorship of the web, according to researchers.

The free program has been constructed to let citizens of countries with restricted web access retrieve and display web pages from anywhere.

The University of Toronto's Citizen Lab software, called psiphon, will be released on 1 December.

Net censorship is a growing issue, and several countries have come under fire for blocking online access.

Governments have militarized their censorship efforts to an incredible extent
Ronald Deibert

Human rights organisation Reporters Without Borders recently released a list of 13 countries it believed were suppressing freedom of expression on the net, including Syria, China and Vietnam.

But the Citizen Lab, which is based at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto, believes its program will allow surfers to bypass web censorship.

Psiphon works through social networks. A net user in an uncensored country can download the program to their computer, which transforms it into an access point.

They can then give contacts in censored countries a unique web address, login and password, which enables the restricted users to freely browse the web through an encrypted connection to the proxy server.


The Citizen Lab said the system provides strong protection against "electronic eavesdropping" because censors or ISPs can only see that end users are connected to another computer and not view the sites that are being visited.

It added that using small trusted networks as a delivery mechanism made it more difficult for censors to find and shut down psiphon.

However, it also warned potential users that bypassing censorship could violate laws, and urge them to consider potential consequences of doing so.

Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab, told the New York Times: "Governments have militarized their censorship efforts to an incredible extent so we're trying to reverse some of that and restore that promise that the internet once had for unfettered access and communication."

Beta testing of the system began over the summer, and the free program will be launched on 1 December.

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