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Reporters Without Borders Fight Web Censorship

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the anonymous-non-cowards dept.

Censorship 42

eldavojohn writes "Yesterday Reporters Without Borders (RSF) launched a new initiative called 'Anti-Censorship Shelter' that aims to provide shelter for bloggers and Internet journalists in foreign countries who risk persecution or censorship from their local governments. RSF stated, 'At a time when online filtering and surveillance is becoming more and more widespread, we are making an active commitment to an Internet that is unrestricted and accessible to all by providing the victims of censorship with the means of protecting their online information. Never before have there been so many netizens in prison in countries such as China, Vietnam, and Iran for expressing their views freely online. Anonymity is becoming more and more important for those who handle sensitive data.' Working with Xerobank, RSF has a high-speed, devoted VPN that users can connect to that sounds like an onion router. While RSF admitted this masked address service is not foolproof, it's impressive to see an organization proactively seeking out individuals and offering them a digital shelter to protect themselves from a fate similar to that of the estimated 120 imprisoned bloggers around the world."

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I think Xerobank is great but the tech (5, Insightful)

elucido (870205) | more than 4 years ago | (#32702912)

The technology needs to be upgraded. I suggest that a Linux distribution designed specifically for journalists be created. Maybe call it Xerotrace. It has to be a liveCD, it can include Tor, Freenet, GNUNet, and encrypted truecrypt container for permanent storage. This could be combined with cloud computing to allow the blogger or journalist to upload their truecrypt container to the web via SSL. GPG should be included so the user can authenticate and confirm they are who they claim to be.

The main problem is that most journalists are not hackers. So while you have the rare hacker/journalist who can create their own linux distribution, write their own software, or can fully make use of whats already out there, the product has to be simplified greatly before it will be good enough.

Re:I think Xerobank is great but the tech (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703166)

so why don't some slashdotters get together and do it? I mean, there are so many around here ready to draw Mohammed, at least some of them should have some reasonable skills that are of use in this case.
I'm a physicist. I don't know enough, and in this thing you can't allow for mistakes; some people get caught and die.

Re:I think Xerobank is great but the tech (3, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703202)

Yes, the NSA could help out making sure this distribution is secure...

Re:I think Xerobank is great but the tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32703512)

As could the FSB and the MSS.

Re:I think Xerobank is great but the tech (3, Informative)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703502)

I suggest that a Linux distribution designed specifically for journalists be created. Maybe call it Xerotrace. It has to be a liveCD, it can include Tor, Freenet, GNUNet, and encrypted truecrypt container for permanent storage.

Several already exist [torproject.org] .

Re:I think Xerobank is great but the tech (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 4 years ago | (#32706658)

I suggest that a Linux distribution designed specifically for journalists be created. Maybe call it Xerotrace. It has to be a liveCD, it can include Tor, Freenet, GNUNet, and encrypted truecrypt container for permanent storage.

Several already exist [torproject.org] .

And they aren't currently in development. I'm guessing governments got pissed off and threatened the developers with torture.

Re:I think Xerobank is great but the tech (3, Insightful)

anwyn (266338) | more than 4 years ago | (#32704492)

It should also be designed to change the mac address before using any wired or wireless internet card.

Re:I think Xerobank is great but the tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32709122)

XeroBank is not Tor. It is lightyears ahead. They released multiple hardened linux distributions, including xB Machine, a year before any other similar VM came out. Their team members are infact the ones who created JanusVM and TorVM.

Does the shelter have borders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32702926)

Because if so, that makes them Doctors with Borders.

So, I guess you could now call them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32702940)

Doctors with Boarders

It's a trap! (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32702968)

I tried to use it to post irrefutable evidence that president Obama is a goatfu"£$%£$%
no carrier

Why people like the pirate bay are a good. (3, Insightful)

drijen (919269) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703022)

Why the heck would you allow non-hackers to protect you from the people you need to hide from?
I seem to recall that a group like the pirate bay, who made it their business to mask identity from powerful interests created baywords.com for exactly this purpose.
A misconfigured tor node or vpn stream could expose someone to torture or worse. A group like this needs to step back, and ask someone in the know to do it, and just offer funding.

Re:Why people like the pirate bay are a good. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32703190)

Such a tor node could be government-run too.

Censorship in USA? (-1, Offtopic)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703064)

It is funny that even on this site, slashdot, there is a censorship, but no one bother to raise the public and to fight it.....OKEY, it is not censorship, but RULES. If you don't follow the rules, or if you post an insulting comment, and by insulting comment i don't mean bad words, but something....what, illegal???, then, the CENSOR, i mean the moderator will delete you, block you, low down your rating, in fact, will CENSOR you. And only to be clear, i agreed to the terms, and i am trying to follow them as best as possible, but nevertheless, it is still censorship.

Re:Censorship in USA? (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703090)

Wait slashdot mods can delete your posts? i thought you can only down mod.
How many mod point do I need to permaban someone? :P

Re:Censorship in USA? (2)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703114)

when your karma becomes very bad, and you have some limit on number of posts per day/month/year, and your score is ZERO...... or even if you, or your IP is banned, it is even more effective that the actual DELETE operation.

Re:Censorship in USA? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32704252)

Yup. Back in the day it happened to me when I criticized Michael Sims (a nasty little asshat of a submitter who was up the editors' asses). In some cases they (or he) left replies - including quotes of what I'd written - there.

Eventually they wose up and shitcanned the jerk.

So they can, though they rarely do.

Wikileaks anyone? (0, Flamebait)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703074)

Do you remember the story about the journalist from Wikileaks, and the advise to avoid USA.......What is this if not censorship, in his worst form.

Re:Wikileaks anyone? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703108)

In the modern era, you don't need a physical presence to get the word out. Sure not having a physical presence in a part of the world is detrimental, but as long as there's places to hide out and put the information out there it could be worse.

Journalist are considered to be foreign spies (4, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703104)

In the past governments' have relied on information from foreign correspondents . . . either formally or informally. Who else can just walk around asking nosy questions about stuff? Repressive governments know this, and treat every journalist that way; even accredited ones from big international news agencies.

Bloggers have a tougher lot: they are considered to be downright subversives. Ever see an old movie with a group of idealists printing anti-government fliers on a hand printing press in a dark basement? They are the bloggers of today.

This is intrinsically a very dangerous business to be in. Secret police in these states tend to be very effective.

As soon as this gets set up, I am afraid that the governments will just up the ante: try to infiltrate a false blogger, disband student organizations . . . whatever it takes to stop those presses in the basement.

So, as I applaud this initiative, I am doubtful if this will be a "silver bullet" for the problem.

And no, I don't have any other solutions, and applaud the courage of these folks.

Oh, another thing . . . governments like to slip in "legal" spies in their embassies, usually with such titles as "Under-Secretary for Agricultural Exchange", or something like that. How do you spot one of these? From The Economist, "Look for someone who is obviously much too clever for his job."

Re:Journalist are considered to be foreign spies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32705782)

It doesn't need to be a bullet proof method to be useful. If it greatly increases the cost of surveillance by governments (or others), that's big step forward.

Re:Journalist are considered to be foreign spies (2, Interesting)

grcumb (781340) | more than 4 years ago | (#32706402)

Oh, another thing . . . governments like to slip in "legal" spies in their embassies, usually with such titles as "Under-Secretary for Agricultural Exchange", or something like that.

Cultural Attaché, usually.

How do you spot one of these? From The Economist, "Look for someone who is obviously much too clever for his job."

Bear in mind that these ones aren't really hiding. They won't admit to any espionage role; they assume you know what they are. They're in place to handle information on the cusp between public and secret and in many cases to provide security/protection for those whose identity is a very carefully kept secret. Think of them as a combination stalking horse / beard / doorman for the 'real' spies.

Re:Journalist are considered to be foreign spies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32707064)

Indeed, the real spies in the embassies are likely the ones who are best described as "Mr./ Ms. Average" and will be as nondescript as possible. Not obviously intelligent, nor as dim as a box of rocks, and about as boring to listen to as bean paste.Very often, they will be told as little as neccessary about what they are to be doing, or given some mindless repetitive task, so that if they ARE compromised in some way, any damage done will be minimal, and easily pinpointed so as to make loss recovery as simple and painless as possible.

It's not about "James Bond", it's about attention to detail, process and procedure, and dry, unemotional analysis nearly to the brink of autism. ...ehh, but this is just "speculation" on my part, since I'm not actually IN that line of work, myself, so take it as you wish.

Re:Journalist are considered to be foreign spies (1)

ps2os2 (1216366) | more than 4 years ago | (#32783470)

Secret Police??? We have the CIA/FBI/Pentagon looking for the creator of Wikileaks we don't need no stinkin' secret police.

There is also the side issue of who really is telling the truth. The people in the US presume reporter to be telling the truth, which is not always the case in the US and foreign countries. So just because someone uploads a "story" doesn't make it true. In order to trace it back to the originator there has to be some sort of way to do this, otherwise you will have governments (including ours) uploading reported "true" stories and there is no way to check to see who is actually doing so. I am not sure how WIKILEAKS handles this but they apparently do. However in this case it is a little more sensitive as (false) stories could really hurt a government. While tha same maybe true for WIKILEAKS (unless it is a real juicy piece) it probably will embarrass a government not topple it.

Erm... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32703138)

From TFA: "The Shelter is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. Anyone wanting to use it should make a reservation by sending an email to shelter@rsf.org."

The rest of the time the Internet is, of course, closed.

120 imprisoned bloggers around the world. (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703144)

quote: it's impressive to see an organization proactively seeking out individuals and offering them a digital shelter to protect themselves from a fate similar to that of the estimated 120 imprisoned bloggers around the world. I wonder what they mean when they say: "imprisoned"?

Re:120 imprisoned bloggers around the world. (1, Troll)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703178)

In china I believe imprisoned means your organs are imprisoned in a wealthy benefactor.

is this news a flamebait? (1, Troll)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703156)

I have a question to the mods, why don't you mark this whole article as FLAMEBAIT???? In fact, what is flamebait?

TROLL (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32703182)

censorship begins at /home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32703238)

the 'borders' are entirely imaginary, the censorship is not. it is a fear based effort to impede/manipulate the inevitable. a fool's errand (mindless subservience) at best. tell 'em robbIE?

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"The current rate of extinction is around 10 to 100 times the usual background level, and has been elevated above the background level since the Pleistocene. The current extinction rate is more rapid than in any other extinction event in earth history, and 50% of species could be extinct by the end of this century. While the role of humans is unclear in the longer-term extinction pattern, it is clear that factors such as deforestation, habitat destruction, hunting, the introduction of non-native species, pollution and climate change have reduced biodiversity profoundly.' (wiki)

"I think the bottom line is, what kind of a world do you want to leave for your children," Andrew Smith, a professor in the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences, said in a telephone interview. "How impoverished we would be if we lost 25 percent of the world's mammals," said Smith, one of more than 100 co-authors of the report. "Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live," added Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN director general. "We must now set clear targets for the future to reverse this trend to ensure that our enduring legacy is not to wipe out many of our closest relatives."--

"The wealth of the universe is for me. Every thing is explicable and practical for me .... I am defeated all the time; yet to victory I am born." --emerson

no need to confuse 'religion' with being a spiritual being. our soul purpose here is to care for one another. failing that, we're simply passing through (excess baggage) being distracted/consumed by the guaranteed to fail illusionary trappings of man'kind'. & recently (about 10,000 years ago) it was determined that hoarding & excess by a few, resulted in negative consequences for all.

consult with/trust in your creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." )one does not need to agree whois in charge to grasp the notion that there may be some assistance available to us(

boeing, boeing, gone.

Hah. (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703310)

The only "shelter" against censorship on the level we're talking about is a bullet to the head of the censor. (Or "removing the censors power or incentive to censor in general" if you happen to find bloodthirsty rethoric distasteful.) More specifically, if the censoring party has the competence and will to monitor the traffic for releases to wikileaks or similiar, they certainly have the means to just block the VPN service or just haul them in if they try to use it. "But they can't see/prove that they're actually reporting on things the censors wouldn't like!?" Yeah, right, as if that will stop them.

With all due respect... (2, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#32703756)

The reporter whose life is in danger needs more than a virtual shelter for himself and his family. He needs a ticket out.

Re:With all due respect... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32704468)

The reporter whose life is in danger needs more than a virtual shelter for himself and his family. He needs a ticket out.

Some people will stay and fight when others run. If you really care about your homeland, maybe a "ticket out" isn't an option.

We see that with the many Afghanis and Iranians here in the US. They got their "ticket out" and have saved their bacon, but going to rallies and having fundraisers isn't going to change the situation at home.

I'm not a brave guy, but I'm glad there are brave people in the world and I'm going to show them respect.

Reporters Without Borders hardly non-partisan (1, Flamebait)

cusco (717999) | more than 4 years ago | (#32704070)

They get a goodly portion of their budget from groups like the American Enterprise Institute, the CIA-funded Democracy Project, and right-wing money conduits like the Olin Family Trust and Richard Mellon Scaife Trust.

That's why they went berserk when Venezuela shut down several radio stations. Never mind that they had been officially notified multiple times over a three month period that they needed to fix their registrations for 1) allowing the registration to expire (sometimes for multiple years), 2) registering in the names of fictional or dead people, or 3) not even using the bandwidth that they were granted and just preventing anyone else from competing in that market. At the same time Venezuela has assisted the poor and middle class to create literally hundreds of 'micro-broadcast stations', low-power radio stations that serve the immediate community's interests.

Somehow RSF never seems to have issues with Palestinian, Turkish and Ukrainian journalists jailed for not toeing the official line.

Re:Reporters Without Borders hardly non-partisan (1)

Coward Anonymous (110649) | more than 4 years ago | (#32705236)

Where are my mod points when I need them. Mod parent up!

Re:Reporters Without Borders hardly non-partisan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32705296)

This is very interesting, cusco. I didn't realize Reporters Without Borders is funded by bloodthirsty groups like AEI and the Democracy Project. It sheds quite a different light on their assertions.

The core agenda of the AEI and Democracy Project is to start wars. They like to use "protecting Israel" as their cover, but ultimately, they're just looking to fire up the war machine. They're an ugly combination of sick ideology and corporate interests of military contractors.

Re:Reporters Without Borders hardly non-partisan (2, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32705554)

They get a goodly portion of their budget from groups like the American Enterprise Institute, the CIA-funded Democracy Project, and right-wing money conduits like the Olin Family Trust and Richard Mellon Scaife Trust.

Citation?

Re:Reporters Without Borders hardly non-partisan (1)

cusco (717999) | more than 4 years ago | (#32706938)

Start here:

"http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_5852.shtml"
"http://www.counterpunch.org/barahona05172005.html"
"http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Reporters_Without_Borders"

Re:Reporters Without Borders hardly non-partisan (1)

Group XVII (1714286) | more than 4 years ago | (#32705882)

"Somehow RSF never seems to have issues with Palestinian, Turkish and Ukrainian journalists jailed for not toeing the official line."

I searched the RSF website and came to a different conclusion.

RSF (1)

Loktar Ogar (960557) | more than 4 years ago | (#32705062)

You might want to check your resources. I'm pretty sure RSF stands for Reporters Sans Fences, not Reporters without borders.

Never before? (2, Interesting)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 4 years ago | (#32705284)

Never before have there been so many netizens in prison in countries such as China, Vietnam, and Iran for expressing their views freely online.

That's mainly because never before have there been so many "netizens". There's been repression in all of these countries for a very long time now.

Wouldn't trust them (2, Interesting)

Voline (207517) | more than 4 years ago | (#32709068)

Reporters Without Borders are primarily funded by the US government [zcommunications.org] through the National Endowment for Democracy which was founded during the Reagan administration to channel funds to organizations abroad that would support US foreign policy. Sometimes this funding is direct [ned.org] , sometimes it is conducted through the international arms of the US Democratic Party or Republican Party [counterpunch.org] .

I'm sure that the US government would much prefer that whistleblowers send any leaked video of massacres by US troops or State Department cables to this new site rather than Wikileaks [wikileaks.org] . The only way it would be easier for them to discover the identity of the whistleblower would be if the leak went directly to the CIA with a return address.

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