Software jumps China’s firewall for news from Tibet

Software jumps China's firewall for news from Tibet

by: CBC News

A Vancouver human rights group is using software developed in Toronto to help break open China's locks on internet content about violence in Tibet.

Robert Guerra of the human rights group Privaterra says repressive governments such as China target video-sharing websites.

"Most countries, the first sites they'll block are the social networking sites, and they'll block the sites like YouTube, so they don't want to see what's going on and also they don't want people to post the content either," he told CBC News.

But online shots of Tibetans fleeing as security forces fire tear gas or a sea of crimson when monks demonstrate in Tibet's eastern province are surfacing online, despite China's blocks on YouTube.

Guerra has been able to make contact with people in China and let others outside China see their videos and blogs with software called psiphon, which was specially designed to circumvent censorship.

In the past week, psiphon has been used to reach out to Tibetans, said Ron Deibert, the director of Citizen Lab in Toronto, which is developing the software.

'Tunnel through the great firewall'

Psiphon allows internet access that is unblockable and untraceable.

"What you're doing is setting up an access point outside of China," Deibert said. "When you connect to it you're surfing from there, as if you're physically there … it's like a tunnel through the great firewall so to speak."

Created at the University of Toronto, the newest version of psiphon works on any computer that has an internet connection, including home computers.

It was created in part because web censorship is rising, he said.

"Really it is an alarming trend…. There's a wide range of countries that are either blocking access to web content that they find culturally inappropriate [or] they're blocking access to political opposition websites to human rights information."

Deibert said he hopes to have a network of users in place to broadcast and blog when the Olympics arrive in Beijing this summer.

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