Of Media Bubbles and Dictators

If you want to know the character of a government, look at how it treats its citizens. Make sure to look at how it handles issues relating to freedoms of expression, assembly, and religion. May people peacably assemble at will? Is there a free press? Are there limits on state power, or can a state run amok over its people? When does it detain people? May people freely discuss and practice their religion? Dictators often restrict expression, assembly, and religion as a means of control. Often a media bubble is created and enforced, supporting the regime viewpoint on all matters.

Egypt just showed to the world that is should rank among aspiring dictatorships. First, it clamps down hard on dissent, though dissent should be tolerated in a so-called free and progressive country. Next, it tortures people in detention. Third, it cannot accept criticism and directs Egyptian ISPs to censor the internet, as evidenced by the blockage of the Human Rights Watch website. Web users, do yourselves a favor and develop your abilities for using VPNs and onion routing (Tor and related hidden services).

Russia has also chosen the path of indiscriminate and repressive handling of platforms used for expression. In one recent example, the Kartinov Case, an IP address was blocked - preventing access not only to a targeted site but also denying access to several unrelated websites on the same server. IP blocking is a ham-fisted means of blocking sites and is in fact a form of collective punishment on customers of a web host. They are increasingly severe in punishing speech contrary to the media bubble. In fact, discussing verified historical events such as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact may be punishable by fines or jail. Webmasters, do yourselves a favor and move your controversial sites to servers beyond your borders and promote access via VPNs.

Knowing that VPNs are effective tools for circumventing internet censorship, Russia has outlawad VPNs not on servers within the country and operating with government permission. Countries on the periphery of Russia are having related issues with freedom of expression. Ukraine has implemented blocks on Russian social media sites in an effort to suppress propaganda and lies relating to the illegal seizure of Crimea and other Ukranian territory.

As long as expression repressing regimes exist, there will be a purpose and need for circumvention technology. That means encrypted DNS, VPNs, Onion routers, Onion services, and global availability of web servers.


Tags:VPN, Onion Router, Russia, Egypt, Censorship, Himan Rughts Watch, Article 19
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