Published reports in the Toronto Star say that Canadian software is helping Syrian activists get around the web censorship in that beleaguered country. The report states that last year when the rebels found they had their connections blocked and had no real way of getting around the curtain imposed by the regime there, Psiphon Inc was on the job to supply some help with networking.
Psiphon 3 is the name of the product that was distributed to the activists in December and Rafal Rohozinski, the CEO of the firm, told the Toronto Star that he watched the number of people who were able to get their information out grow quickly to 30,000 in a short period of time. He says that while the requests cam from a number of different sources, the intent behind what they were all trying to accomplish together was the same.
“The act of communicating, of empowering yourself through knowledge, is an essential component of democratization,” he said recently.
The Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto was at the centre of much of the initial work and Psiphon became the brain child of a research and development initiative that focused on cyberspace and how it relates issues like human rights and security.
As far as Internet censorship goes, things are getting worse all the time according to those who track such things. For example, the OpenNet Initiative tracks Internet censorship and they’ve seen the numbers of countries filtering what comes across their borders grow over the nine years they’ve been tracking this issue to over 40 today.
Ron Deibert is the director of the Citizen Lab and works with the OpenNet Initiative as well. He says that one of the objectives when the new Psiphon software was being developed was to make it very difficult for hackers to filter what was getting through to any one individual computer. That was one way they felt to stop the kind of Internet censorship that’s growing.
Small independent networks was one of the starting points. That design was put together so that the Internet could work under the radar of some of the bigger government agencies that were looking to censor it.
Psiphon 2 takes a slightly different approach and uses alternate uncensored paths to websites like targeted emails and social media. The company works off the belief that the Internet should not be censored and all information should be available to anyone who wants it online.