Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New, easy, legal tools for circumventing Internet censorship

With lese majesty laws reaching a fever pitch in Thailand, there is some helpful advice from Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT):

Thailand's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, the Official Censor of the Military Coup, has blocked at least 17,775 websites which, along with blocking by the Royal Thai Police, resulted in more than 50,000 websites blocked in Thailand. Public webboard discussions, circumvention tools, voices from Thailand's Muslim South and critical commentary of Thailand's monarchy were particularly targetted for censorship.

Thailand's military government also passed a Computer-Related Crimes Act with draconian penalties and onerous data retention provisions abnegating privacy and anonymity and chilling public discussion of vital issues among Thais. The result of this cybercrime law was to criminalise circumvention with one notable exception, the Virtual Private Networks (VPN) relied on by business to create a secure, private, encrypted channel.

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) is pleased to provide links to two new, easy tools for private citizens to legally ignore Thailand's Internet censorship. Virtual Private Networks have been complicated to set up and difficult to maintain. However, with these two free, public tools, VPN is available to everyone.

Your own private network is located overseas beyond the reach of Thai censors using an encrypted tunnel so that governments and ISPs won't even be able to see where you're surfing. Unlike anonymous Internet proxies, criminal under the cybercrime law, using VPN makes streaming video and audio freely available.

Two simple, free VPN applications are HotSpot Shield (Mac and Windows) <

, AlwaysVPN (Mac, Windows, Linux) <> and Social VPN (Windows, Linux) Run the installer and they just work with one click every time you get to a blocked website.

The United States has plans to create a national broadband network which will censor all "pornography" and Australia is planning on spending $189 million on a firewall to ensure pornography cannot be accessed there.

Both Sweden and England have announced plans to capture every electronic communication passing their borders.

The Thai government has announced plans to set up a national firewall to block l?se majest? content along with "pornographic, obscene and terrorist websites" with a budget of 100 to 500 million Thai baht or $2.9 to $14.6 million. Current law requires government to obtain a court order to block websites. This is most often accomplished by rubber-stamp orders. The new censorship plan would illegally block websites without court order.

Can any country afford such measures to censor free expression?

Would this money not be better spent on amazing Thailand's amazing social crises, such as peace, justice and reconciliation in the South, or even Internet education?

Thailand's prime minister deposed by fiat had plans to block 800,000 websites here. His legacy in the current government claims to block "only 2,300" sites, emphasising censorship of sites critical of Thailand's monarchy with plans to block a further 400. A video insulting the Thai King resulted in a seven-month ban on YouTube by the coup government. This ban resulted in dozens of copycat videos.

Google cooperated with the Thai government's requests in secret, creating geolocational blocking; when users attempt to access a blocked video, a message states, "This video is not available in your country," and occurs along with government redirection by transparent proxy. Much of the Internet censorship is directed at the dozens of videos satirising, criticising, insulting, demeaning, defaming or merely commenting on Thailand's monarchy, particularly the prolific and irreverent StopLeseMajeste YouTube channel.

There are now wholesale accusations of l?se majest? in Thailand with each faction claiming to act for the protection of the monarchy. Two webboard forum posters were arrested under the cybercrime law for their comments about the monarchy after being tracked by their IP address. At the time of King Bhumibol's 60th anniversary celebrations, there were more than 60 persons under charges of l?se majest?. Currently there are at least 34 charged but this figure is misleading as accusations of l?se majest? have resulted in numerous bans of critical media, including books, film, television, radio and websites.

The King himself has invited criticism but Thai people love their King but never listen to his words. L?se majest? charges always result from petty bureaucrats and policemen.

Governments believe they can censor free speech with impunity. VPN proves they cannot.

HotSpot Shield (Mac and Windows) <>

AlwaysVPN (Mac, Windows, Linux) <>

Social VPN (Windows, Linux) <>


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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