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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Malaysia, Internet Censorship, and psiphon

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Gee, leave the country for 10 days, and all hell seems to have broken loose.

Walski agrees, in principal, with The Malaysian's end-thoughts on his post - blogging is here to stay. Yes, there have been implicit warnings from the Minister of Truth, the minister's Mini-Me (read: deputy minister), and Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Kong Cho Ha - the latter wants to get bloggers registered.

Image hosting by PhotobucketTwenty-two years later, 1984 still looms over our heads

Having just visited the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam a few days ago, the cynical part of Walski is reminded of how Nazi Germany "registered" all their undesirables (the Jews in particular) - in lieu of extermination. But that's just Walski... In any case, Datuk Kong should know the headaches in even getting the pre-paid mobile users to register... Now, multiply that by a factor of 10,000...

What is probably more likely to happen is a crackdown on the Internet, like what the Chinese have done. Then again, this would go against the MSC Bill of Guarantees (not Multi-Storey Carpark, although we have a fair share of these, too, but the Multimedia Super Corridor) which states, among other things that it shall "Ensure no internet censorship".

Which also means that the promises of the MSC would remain just that - promises.

No, Walski doesn't think there is an imminent crackdown anytime soon. Despite what the confused Mininster of Truth has to say - he doesn't seem to know which ministry he heads sometimes, basing on his statements of late.

BUT JUST IN CASE... Walski stumbled across this neat application that circumvents censorship on the Internet. It's an application called psiphon (pronounced siphon) - hat tip to Asia Pundit.
(more on psiphon in the full post)

Image hosting by Photobucketpsiphon is an Open Source (GPL) application that essentially networks secure nodes on the internet, called psiphonodes (in censorship-free geographical areas) to act as distributed proxy servers, through which users (known as psiphonites) physically residing behind censorship firewalls connect, allowing free access to the Internet.

The psiphonite's credentials, of course, would be authenticated, using digital certification methodologies. The FAQ states that the user's ISP can still detect his/her online activities, but only connections to psiphonodes would appear, and not to the actual website(s) browsed.

The application was developed as part of the CiviSec Project run by the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto.

The client-side app can be downloaded for free at the psiphon website. It is currently available for Windows and Linux platforms, while the Mac version is still under development.

While primarily designed to enable free access to censored sites, the psiphon FAQ states that most web-based applications will work, including blog-editing (for most blog platforms). The FAQ does warn that circumventing Net censorship may be illegal (definitely true in China).

Walski does hope that it doesn't get to the point where we'll be needing this tool. But speaking of warnings, MageP's Lab posted about a concern raised by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in the wake of Kong Cho Ha's press statement. While any move to curtail access to the Internet would hurt the credibility of the MSC, censoring the Internet (or trying to) is still not beyond the realms of plaubibility.

Backpaddling may be the favorite Malaysian ruling party politician's sport of choice lately, but the guarantees of the MSC is definitely going to be one huge bicycle to steer backwards....