This is a Guest Post by Isa C
Certain countries are infamous for internet censorship, such as North Korea, China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, but the citizens of other countries are certainly not immune to these issues. For example, recent changes to Australian law might have you worried. New legislation will make peer-to-peer sharing, torrenting, and file sharing inaccessible. Ostensibly, the reason for Australian internet censorship is to protect children from pornography and violence, but the laws can apply to any “unwanted” content. To many, this seems like a slippery slope. What will the government be censoring next? We take for granted our ability to access sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and the New York Times, but what if our own governments follow in China’s footsteps? What if, like on China’s Twitter equivalent Sina Weibo, individual posts about topics that make the government look bad get automatically deleted?
But of course, it isn’t just governments that are doing this; on a smaller scale, some employers and institutions will also filter the web. While it makes sense that businesses don’t want employees browsing Facebook instead of working, those who live in college dormitories may find their access restricted 24/7.
If you want to make sure that you’re completely free to browse the web securely and to download whatever you want, you’re going to have to make some small changes to the way you use technology. What’s the best way to avoid these blocks when you’re surfing or downloading on your Android phone?
The best way to do this is to use a VPN. VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, will allow you access to blocked or region-locked content. Using one of these services, you can access a private network securely and remotely. A VPN client connects you to a dedicated connection shored up with an encryption protocol, hiding your physical location by replacing your IP address.
Using a VPN also helps you evade common problems of using unsecured public networks (which you probably do a lot on your most mobile device), like Wi-Fi spoofing, Honeypot attacks, and Firesheep. Usually, you will have to pay a small subscription fee to gain VPN access, but it’s still the method of choice for those in highly censored countries such as China. There are quite a few Android apps for VPN clients.
A Domain Name System (DNS) server contains a database of domain names and their corresponding IP addresses. Some blocking systems will only block websites at the DNS level, making them very easy to circumvent. Here’s a website that will help you bypass internet censorship on your Android device. It may not always work because most censorship will employ more effective methods, but it’s worth a try!
Proxies work by connecting you to a third-party computer, which receives the website you want to access, and passes it through the firewall. Proxies have the advantage of being easy to use but also provide mixed results, and they can sometimes display more complex websites incorrectly. Here’s a tutorial on configuring a proxy on a Samsung Galaxy S III.
Tor (The Onion Router) is an open source program that’s designed to help people remain anonymous on the internet and also to get around censorship. Tor sends your connection through a relay of other Tor users across international boundaries.
Each relay your connection passes through removes only one layer of the encryption, like an onion. This means that the next relay will not know where the previous relay came from, thus masking your IP address. Since Tor crosses international boundaries, you should be able to get around regional blocks and governmental restrictions. To use Tor on Android, download the Orbot app from the Tor Project.
An SSH tunnel will “tunnel” all your data through a secure and encrypted connection to an SSH server. You can buy a subscription to an SSH server or use free ones, but you tend to get what you pay for. The free ones are often slow and unreliable. Here’s an app (originally developed for users in China) that allows you to make use of this method more easily, and a tutorial for more information. You’ll have to root your Android device first.
Internet Censorship & You:
These technologies are always changing and growing because those devoted to internet freedom are infinitely creative and are often forced to stay one step ahead of the censors. For example, the site Free Weibo has gone through quite a few changes and incarnations to stay ahead of China’s censorship and provide citizens with the tweets that the Twitter-equivalent has deleted.
What have your experiences with internet censorship been like? Do you have a favorite method of bypassing blocks, or is this a new issue for you? Are you more concerned with censorship on the governmental or institutional level? Please let us know in the comments because we value your experiences and want to hear from you!
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