01:27 AM

11.27.06: Psiphoning off censorship

The New York Times reports on psiphon, an effort to beat back censorship in repressive countries.

“The problem is growing exponentially,” said Ronald Deibert, director of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which designed psiphon. “What might have started as censorship of pornography and Western news organizations has expanded to include blogging sites, religious sites, health information sites and many others.”

How it works: A user in an uncensored country runs the psiphon software, essentially turning her computer into a proxy. Someone in a restricted country can access that machine via an encrypted connection and get full access to the Net. If he clears his browsing history and cache, no record of his viewing censored material will be stored on his computer.

The breakthrough may be in psiphon's simple operation, so no technical expertise is required. In addition, the anti-censorship browser will allow users to post to blogs and to Wikipedia.

“So far it’s been tech solutions for tech people,” said Dmitri Vitaliev, a human rights activist in Russia who has been testing psiphon in countries where the Internet is censored. “We have not had very good tools so everyone has been eagerly awaiting psiphon.”

- Richard Koman