The Center for Rights in Action is working on a tool to help people view censored websites across the globe.
Online censorship is a big problem, especially in countries like China, Syria, Iran, Egypt and others. When the government can choose what content citizens can see, and when they can or can’t post to social media, they infringe on their freedoms and keep them in the dark about current events and issues. While there are ways around these barriers and restrictions, like proxy servers, it requires above average knowledge of computers and users can be severely punished if caught. All of that may soon change, thanks to Center for Rights in Action, the main project of Internet rights non-profit Fight for the Future.
The Anti-Censorship Alert System project will help alert others as to how many sites are blocked and help people in those countries to find ways around these barrier. It received a $35,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, as part of a $3.4 million awards challenge to help create an open and free Internet. The winners were announced at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference at the MIT Media Lab in late June.
Lead by Tiffiniy Cheng, the Knight Foundation describes the grant as “allowing the public to see a blocked website by launching a series of tools, including an index and shareable website widgets, that enable the distribution and decentralization needed to provide local access to proxies and mirrored versions of the sites.”
While the tools are not full functioning yet, the group has one year to complete the project. There are also not a lot of details on how the project itself will bypass these government Internet barriers, besides the use of proxies and mirror versions of websites. Still, the aim of the project is both noble and important — the spread of information, untampered and uncensored for all of the citizens of the world to share in, rather than having it manipulated by their governments. It fulfills a very real need, succinctly described by Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, Mark Surman, “with threats to privacy, security and access to the Web intensifying, there is a real craving for a more open and trustworthy Web.”