GVO Summit, Day 1, Session 4

Session 4: “Frontline Activists meet the Academy: Tools and Knowledge”

Roger Dingledine from Tor

Tor is anonymity system, program that you run locally that builds a relay path so that no single relay knows both where you’re from and where you’re going

initially funded by US Department of Defense, then by Electronic Frontier Foundation, Voice of America, InterNews, Google, a Dutch foundation (NL Net)

Tor helps it so that someone who’s watching a user can’t dictate where they can go — evades filtering

projects: making it so it’s less obvious when ppl are using Tor, six main IP addresses that are being used — that makes it too easy for govts to find out who’s using them

situation can’t be solved with a purely technical approach — many ppl believe that if content is censored by govt, it is bad

challenge: Tor is run locally on computer, so some ppl can’t use

challenge: imposter versions of Tor that may actually make it easier for Internet use to be tracked

goal is to make it as usable as possible, available to the non-technically-minded

Nart Villeneuve of Citizen Lab

censorship circumvention is global

multiple tools — knowing the specific threats you face will determine which tools you use

exporting of censorship — US companies develop censorship technology & sell it to govts. in other countries

technologies: circumvention vs. anonymity, hybrid tools, public vs. private, open source vs. proprietary, free vs. pay, web-based vs. client

a lot of circumvention tools get you to a blocked site but don’t necessarily shield your identity — have to know what you need and what you’re getting in terms of protection


aclu.org — privacy protection in general, not just online

multiple guides exist to help choose technology that works best for you

Isaac Mao, Digital Nomads project, China

censorship central to Chinese life — affects thoughts and actions (like what Au Wai Pang said about Singapore and psychology) even when ppl. leave country

three walls: free access, free speech, free thinking

have to work on technology, politics & media, and education/culture/self-censorship

in China, blog hosts “self-censor” bloggers

digital nomads: be independent, smart social hacking, backing by powerful Internet philosophy, collaborative & safe working model, foster freedom with “Sharism”

multiple services: co-location of hosting, CMS software installation, fast response to blocking, marketing with social media

$20 per year — pretty cheap (non-profit), no text ads on the hosted sites

his web site is isaacmao.com, also had notisaacmao.com to evade censorship

Robert Guerra, Privaterra, Cuba

mission: helping orgs understand threats of using technology (including mobile devices, internet)

technology policy — how govts. are limiting tech

issues: censorship (not just sites but e-mail), surveillance, hacking, blocking, take-down of sites

“portable spy that you have in your pocket” — cell phone

Danny O’Brien, Electronic Frontier Foundation

tools used for circumvention often developed in a way that’s opaque to the ppl using them, both culturally & geographically

so how to choose the tools you use?

decentralization power of the Internet: many tools are v. centralized (Google, for example) — can be threatening

stay away from commercial products when it comes to circumvention — Google’s product is data for advertisers, not gchat or spreadsheets, and they collect data about users continuously to sell

open source is like a person stripping naked — not hiding anything

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