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What types of information

are censored on the Internet?


Who does this censoring? What
tools exist to circumvent this
censorship?
Introducton
Recent news of the failed Cuban Twiter and
increased censorship in Turkey have reignited the
atenton paid to how the United States promotes
its ideals abroad. Around the world, thousands of
websites such as those focused on social media,
politcal oppositon, and human rights are blocked
from public view, preventng the disseminaton of
great volumes of important informaton.
Though U.S. public diplomacy should not rely
on the internet, it is increasingly becoming an
important foreign policy tool. Recognizing this, the
U.S. supports a variety of key tools allowing users to
circumvent politcal censorship online.
This fact sheet provides a brief overview of the
types of informaton blocking, a selecton of
countries of concern, several means to circumvent
Internet censorship, and the U.S. role in censorship
circumventon.
Madeline Bersch and Matthew Wallin
-
June 2014
Types of Censorship
There are four main categories of informaton
blocking online:
1. Services, such as email or the web;
2. Content, such as that of politcal oppositon
websites, independent news sites, or human
rights organizatons;
3. Users, or blocking content by specifc
persons, such as human rights advocates or
politcal dissidents;
4. Search engines, preventng search results
from leading to specifc websites.
1
In order to specify the content or category to be
blocked, the blocker may use an IP address; port
or protocol; domain name; URL; content signature,
or keyword. These resources may be used to
distnguish the exact content to be prevented from
Key Takeaways:
Tere are a variety of direct and
indirect forms of online censorship.
Foreign governments employ several
of these techniques to enforce online
censorship.
Several types of tools are available for
censorship circumvention.
Te U.S. is a major force in promoting
anti-censorship tools.
Briefng Note
Internet Censorship and
Circumvention
Interact
Join the discussion on censorship at #ASPcensorship
Discuss circumvention with the authors at
@MaddyBersch and @MatthewRWallin
Learn more about ASP and our work in diplomacy at
@amsecproject
appearing in a users search engine results or web browser.
2
Furthermore, Internet censorship is carried out in several less-direct ways highlighted in recent news stories.
These methods include, but are not limited to:
Restrictng the speed of the Internet to impede the viewing and downloading of informaton and
materials;
Raising the cost of Internet access to levels that are cost-prohibitve to the populaton;
Monitoring actvity to discourage the populaton from viewing specifc websites or classes of websites
because the populaton knows they are being watched.
Known Blockers
Around the world, several authoritarian regimes are especially known for their censorship of the web. China and
Iran are two such countries.
China
o China uses a wide range of censorship techniques. The Great
Firewall includes the blocking of Chinese microblog sites and
other politcally sensitve sites such as Facebook, Twiter,
and The New York Times.
3
,
4
Reports that these sites were to be
unblocked in Shanghai were later refuted by Chinese authorites.
5
o Facebook and Twiter have been blocked in mainland China since
2009.
6
This censorship gave rise to Sina Weibo, a collecton of
microblogging sites similar to Twiter, which now boasts over 500 million users.
7
,
8
However,
Weibo is stll subject to censorship.
9
o Censorship is not always fawless. In January, a massive Internet outage afectng two-thirds of
Chinese Internet trafc was allegedly caused by a malfuncton of the Great Firewall, Chinas
Internet control infrastructure. For over an hour, millions of users were rerouted to servers owned,
ironically, by a company that works to fght web censorship.
10
Iran
o Iran censors web content in a variety of ways, including fltering
websites, limitng Internet speed, and monitoring the web actvity
of individual citzens and bloggers.
11
o In Iran, nearly half of the 500 most popular overall Internet sites
are blocked. Many websites categorized as art, news, or
society are blocked, as are websites focused on specifc content
such as politcs or critcism of the government.
12
,
13
o Across the country, Internet speed is limited to a maximum of 128 kbps, about twice the speed of a
dial-up connecton but 50 tmes slower than a typical U.S. Internet connecton.
14
This speed, ofen
as slow as 6 kbps, renders online informaton sharing extremely difcult and nearly impossible.
15

o Currently, Iran is collaboratng with China to create a Natonal Informaton Network in Iran,
essentally a clean internet that would provide access only to content that has been approved
by the Iranian government.
16
,
17
Turkey
o While Turkey is not as historically known for policing its networks,
recent events have raised concerns.
o A law was passed earlier this year allowing the countrys
telecommunicatons authority to block websites without a court
order.
18
o In March, afer an audio recording of a high-level meetng which
reportedly implicated several high-level ofcials in a corrupton investgaton was leaked on
Twiter, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the government to block the social media
site.
19
o Following this, YouTube was blocked afer an audio recording of a high-level security meetng
detailing possible acton in Syria was uploaded to the site.
20
o Turkish courts eventually reversed the blocking of both sites and Twiter. However, authorites
defed the YouTube court order and contnued to block the video sharing site.
21
,
22
Turkey fnally
unblocked YouTube access in early June, 2014.
23
Cuba
o Recent news has also highlighted Cubas censorship of the
Internet, mainly done through excessive charges for access and
slowing the speed of the Internet.
24
o An inital lack of a telecommunicatons structure contributed
to a very miniscule porton of the populaton having access to
Internet at home; only a small percentage of Cubans have access to the Internet at work, which
ofen consists of only the Cuban Intranet.
25
o Government-run Internet cafes provide a common source of web access, but at an expense of $6-
$10 per hour of unlimited use. In a country where the average weekly salary is only $20access
is cost-prohibitve for most.
26

o Additonally, despite recent investments made in the countrys telecommunicatons structure,
Cuba possesses the lowest connecton speed in the Western Hemisphere, according to a Google
Analytcs study.
27

Circumventon Tools
There are four main types of technical tools used to circumvent Internet censorship.
Proxies
o The use of proxies in bypassing Internet censorship is useful for accessing specifc blocked foreign
websites. In this case, the user may utlize a foreign proxy server with compatble programs to
access the website.
28
A proxy server is essentally an intermediary computer, typically located
in another country, that is able to access the blocked site. This proxy is used to fnd and return
informaton for the user while disguising his or her IP address.
29
Tunneling/VPN
o A virtual private network, or VPN, allows a user to create an encrypted tunnel to a diferent
computer which may then be used to access the Internet.
30
The VPN/tunnel wraps the users
web trafc to appear the same as other web trafc. As it is encrypted, the tunneled trafc is
difcult to access or intercept by normal web flters.
31
DNS-based flters
o The Domain Name System, or DNS, is a system that converts a websites numeric IP address to a
standard URL.
32
DNS flters, while ofen put into place to block a specifc web IP address, can also
be used to bypass censorship by changing the DNS server of the provider of the website to be
accessed. As long as the second server is not also blocked, it is possible to navigate around the
censorship.
33
Telescopic crypto (onion routng)
o Onion routng works by creatng a system
of network connectons that resist trafc
analysis, eavesdropping, and other atacks by
outside partes.
34
Essentally, it distribut[es]
[web actvity] over several places on the
Internet so no one point can link to a users
destnaton.
35
The network then displays only
that communicaton is occurring, not which
partes are communicatng with one another.
36
o Tor is one of the most well-known onion routng
services, and was originally developed by the U.S.
Navy to protect government communicatons.
Today, it is used to create a wall of privacy
between an internet user and another party
monitoring the internet.
37
U.S. Role in Censorship Circumventon
The United States plays a strong role in promotng censorship circumventon, funding programs and tools advancing
Internet freedom, countering Internet censorship, supportng secure communicatons, and contributng to policy
and research programs for those facing censorship, as well as other related objectves.
38
Some examples and
fgures are highlighted below.
From 2008 to 2012, the Department of State and USAID have contributed more than $100 million in
support of Internet freedom programs.
39
In 2013 alone, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency
for Internatonal Development (USAID) gave $25 million in awards to groups focused on censorship
circumventon.
40
The Broadcastng Board of Governors is an independent federal agency that oversees U.S. internatonal
broadcastng. Its target audience includes those in countries subject to internet and traditonal media
censorship.
41
o The Open Technology Fund, part of Radio Free Asia within the Board,
funds numerous projects dedicated to advancing Internet freedom and
circumventng its censorship. Projects include developing an iOS version
of TextSecure, an encrypted text messaging applicaton currently only
available on Android devices; Cupcake Bridge, a browser extension that
allows users to act as Tor bridges automatcally, removing the need to install
specialized sofware; and the translatng of online toolkits from Security-in-
a-box, a program designed to educate users on how to circumvent Internet
censorship and remain undetected.
42
The Tor Project receives signifcant funding from the U.S. Government.
43
The U.S. is also a member of the Freedom Online Coaliton, a collecton of 22 like-minded countries
working to advance the ability of individuals to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms
online.
44
The Coaliton works with both civil society and the private sector, ofen working through
multlateral organizatons to protect and increase users rights on the Internet. A Coaliton conference
recently took place in Estonia in late April 2014.
45
Next Steps
Issues surrounding internet censorship have wide-reaching consequences not exclusively limited to freedom
of informaton. The U.S. has a variety of interests it should consider as its role in promotng freedom of
communicaton evolves. Some of these issues include:
Cyber security as an issue of personal securityHow do circumventon, security of electronic data, and
protecton of anonymity ft into this?
How do anonymity tools threaten or increase security of the U.S.?
What role should the U.S. play considering the increasing popularity of mobile platorms?
How can the U.S. work with foreign partes, whether publics or governments, to increase freedom to
access online informaton?
What role do non-state actors play in anonymity, circumventon and censorship?
How do U.S. laws afectng usage of the internet afect the global scene for online communicaton?
While censorship circumventon is vital to promotng U.S. foreign policy, it is also not always efectve against
countermeasures, and should not be the end goal. It is necessary for U.S. government leaders to work with their
foreign counterparts to not only fund and develop censorship circumventon programs, but to foster a broader
dialogue on the subject and call for increased awareness of the importance of an open Internet for the countries
in which this is not a current reality.
Madeline Bersch is a Research Assistant & Intern at the American Security Project. She graduated from the University of Maryland
College Park in May 2014 with a degree in Government & Politcs and minors in Arabic and Global Terrorism.
Mathew Wallin is a Fellow at the American Security Project and holds a Masters in Public Diplomacy from the University of Southern
California.
(Endnotes)
1. Callanan, Cormac, Hein Dries-Ziekenheiner, Alberto Escudero-Pascual, and Robert Guerra, Leaping Over the Firewall: A Review
of Censorship Circumventon Tools, Pg. 19-20, Freedom House, April 2011, htp://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/fles/
inline_images/Censorship.pdf Accessed May 13, 2014
2. Ibid.
3. Woollastno, Victoria, China lifs ban on Facebook but only for people living in a 17 square mile area of Shanghai, Daily Mail
Online, September 25, 2013, htp://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/artcle-2431861/China-lifs-ban-Facebook--people-living-
working-small-area-Shanghai.html Accessed May 13, 2014
4. Chen, George, China to lif ban no Facebook but only within Shanghai free-trade zone, South China Morning Post, September
25, 2013, htp://www.scmp.com/news/china/artcle/1316598/exclusive-china-lif-ban-facebook-only-within-shanghai-free-trade-
zone Accessed May 13, 2014
5. Rigg, Jamie, Chinese State Media Squashes Claims of Less Restricted Internet in Shanghai Zone, Endgadget, htp://www.engad-
get.com/2013/09/26/china-not-unblocking-facebook-twiter-nyt-shanghai/ Accessed May 22, 2014
6. Ibid.
7. Pepitone, Julianne, Meet Sina Weibo and Alibaba, the Chinese E-Giants Comings to U.S., NBC News, March 14, 2014, htp://www.
nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/meet-sina-weibo-alibaba-chinese-e-giants-coming-u-s-n54741 Accessed May 13, 2014
8. Hua, Yu, The Censorship Pendulum, The New York Times, February 4, 2014, htp://www.nytmes.com/2014/02/05/opinion/yu-
hua-chinas-censorship-pendulum.html?ref=internetcensorship Accessed May 13, 2014
9. Ibid.
10. Qin, Amy, Chinese Web Outge Blamed on Censorship Glitch, The New York Times, January 22, 2014, htp://sinosphere.blogs.
nytmes.com/2014/01/22/chinese-web-outage-blamed-on-censorship-glitch/?ref=internetcensorship Accessed May 13, 2014
11. Ministry of Communicatons and Informaton Technology, Internatonal Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, August 21, 2013,
htp://www.iranhumanrights.org/2013/08/ministry-communicatons/ Accessed May 13, 2014
12. Lee, Timothy B., Heres how Iran censors the Internet, The Washington Post, August 15, 2013, htp://www.washingtonpost.com/
blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/08/15/heres-how-iran-censors-the-internet/ Accessed May 13, 2014
13. Ministry of Communicatons and Informaton Technology, Internatonal Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, August 21, 2013,
htp://www.iranhumanrights.org/2013/08/ministry-communicatons/ Accessed May 13, 2014
14. Lee, Timothy B., Heres how Iran censors the Internet, The Washington Post, August 15, 2013, htp://www.washingtonpost.com/
blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/08/15/heres-how-iran-censors-the-internet/ Accessed May 13, 2014
15. Ministry of Communicatons and Informaton Technology, Internatonal Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, August 21, 2013,
htp://www.iranhumanrights.org/2013/08/ministry-communicatons/, Accessed May 13, 2014.
16. Eades, Mark C., Chinas Newest Export: Internet Censorship, U.S. News & World Report, January 30, 2014, htp://www.usnews.
com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2014/01/30/china-is-exportng-internet-censorship-to-iran Accessed May 13, 2014
17. China to Help Iran Implement Its Closed Natonal Internet, Internatonal Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, January 21, 2014,
htp://www.iranhumanrights.org/2014/01/china-iran-internet/ Accessed May 13, 2014
18. Letsch, Constanze and Dominic Rushe, Turkey blocks YouTube amid natonal security concerns, The Guardian, March 28, 2014,
htp://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/27/google-youtube-ban-turkey-erdogan Accessed May 13, 2014
19. Arsu, Sebnem, Turkish Ofcials Block Twiter in Leak Inquiry, The New York Times, March 20, 2014, htp://www.nytmes.
com/2014/03/21/world/europe/turkish-ofcials-block-twiter-in-leak-inquiry.html?acton=click&module=Search&regi
on=searchResults%230&version=&url=htp%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytmes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Facton%3
Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollecton%3DHomepage%2
6t%3Dqry249%23%2Fturkey%2520twiter Accessed May 13, 2014
20. Letsch, Constanze and Dominic Rushe, Turkey blocks YouTube amid natonal security concerns, The Guardian, March 28, 2014,
htp://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/27/google-youtube-ban-turkey-erdogan Accessed May 13, 2014
21. Yeginsu, Ceylan, Turkey Lifs Twiter Ban Afer Court Calls It Illegal, The New York Times, April 3, 2014, htp://www.nytmes.
com/2014/04/04/world/middleeast/turkey-lifs-ban-on-twiter.html Accessed May 13, 2014
22. Butler, Daren, Turkey keeps YouTube block despire court rulings, Reuters, April 10, 2014, htp://www.reuters.com/art-
cle/2014/04/10/us-turkey-youtube-idUSBREA390J320140410, Accessed May 13, 2014.
23. Francheschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo, Turkey Unblocks YouTube afer 2 Months, Mashable, htp://mashable.com/2014/06/03/turkey-
unblocks-youtube/ Accessed June 11, 2014
24. Freedom on the Net 2013: Cuba, Freedom House, April 2013, htp://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2013/cuba#.
U0hC26hdXmd Accesses May 13, 2014
25. Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo, The Internet in Cuba: 5 Things You Need to Know, Mashable, April 3, 2014, htp://mashable.
com/2014/04/03/internet-freedom-cuba/ Accessed May 13, 2014
26. Wills, Santago, Cubas Internet: Its Bad, But It Might Get Beter, Fusion, August 7, 2013, htp://fusion.net/abc_univision/story/
internet-cuba-facts-myths-web-access-22566 Accessed May 13, 2014
27. Global Site Speed Overview: How Fast Are Websites Around The World?, Google Analytcs Blog, April 19, 2012, htp://analytcs.
blogspot.com.es/2012/04/global-site-speed-overview-how-fast-are.html Accessed May 13, 2014
28. Callanan, Cormac, Hein Dries-Ziekenheiner, Alberto Escudero-Pascual, and Robert Guerra, Leaping Over the Firewall: A Review of
Censorship Circumventon Tools, Pg. 22, Freedom House, April 2011, htp://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/fles/inline_
images/Censorship.pdf Accessed May 13, 2014
29. Circumventon Tools, How To Bypass Internet Censorship, Pg. 5, March 10, 2011, htps://www.howtobypassinternetcensorship.
org/fles/bypassing-censorship.pdf Accessed May 13, 2014
30. Circumventon Tools, How To Bypass Internet Censorship, Pg. 11, March 10, 2011, htps://www.howtobypassinternetcensorship.
org/fles/bypassing-censorship.pdf Accessed May 13, 2014
31. Callanan, Cormac, Hein Dries-Ziekenheiner, Alberto Escudero-Pascual, and Robert Guerra, Leaping Over the Firewall: A Review of
Censorship Circumventon Tools, Pg. 22, Freedom House, April 2011, htp://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/fles/inline_
images/Censorship.pdf Accessed May 13, 2014
32. What is DNS?, Microsof TechNet, March 28, 2003, htp://technet.microsof.com/en-us/library/cc787921(v=ws.10).aspx Ac-
cessed May 13, 2014
33. Callanan, Cormac, Hein Dries-Ziekenheiner, Alberto Escudero-Pascual, and Robert Guerra, Leaping Over the Firewall: A Review of
Censorship Circumventon Tools, Pg. 22, Freedom House, April 2011, htp://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/fles/inline_
images/Censorship.pdf Accessed May 13, 2014
34. Syverson, Paul, Onion Routng, Center for High Assurance Computer Systems of the U.S. Naval Research Lab, 2005, htp://www.
onion-router.net/ Accessed May 13, 2014
35. Tor: Overview, Tor Project, htps://www.torproject.org/about/overview.html.en#overview Accessed May 13, 2014
36. Syverson, Paul, Onion Routng, Center for High Assurance Computer Systems of the U.S. Naval Research Lab, 2005, htp://www.
onion-router.net/ Accessed May 13, 2014
37. Tor: Overview, Tor Project, htps://www.torproject.org/about/overview.html.en#overview Accessed May 13, 2014
38. Internet Freedom, U.S. Department of State, htp://www.state.gov/e/eb/cip/netreedom/index.htm Accessed May 13, 2014
39. Hanson, Fergus, Baked in and Wired: eUDiplomacy @ State in Internet Freedom: The Role of the U.S. State Department, The
Brookings Insttuton, October 25, 2012, htp://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2012/10/25-ediplomacy-hanson-internet-
freedom Accessed May 13, 2014
40. Internet Freedom, U.S. Department of State, htp://www.state.gov/e/eb/cip/netreedom/index.htm Accessed May 13, 2014
41. FAQs, Broadcastng Board of Governors, htp://www.bbg.gov/about-the-agency/history/faqs/ Accessed May 13, 2014
42. Projects, Open Technology Fund, htps://www.opentechfund.org/projects Accessed May 13, 2014
43. Wallin, Mathew, The New Public Diplomacy Imperatve, American Security Project, p. 19, htp://www.americansecurityproject.
org/the-new-public-diplomacy-imperatve/
44. U.S. Department of State, Fact Sheet: Freedom Online Coaliton, November 20, 2012, htp://www.humanrights.gov/2012/11/20/
fact-sheet-freedom-online-coaliton/ Accessed May 13, 2014
45. Estonian e-Governance Academy, Concept Paper for Freedom Online Coaliton Conference 2014, htp://www.freedomonline.ee/
sites/www.freedomonline.ee/fles/docs/FOC%20Tallinn%20concept%20paper%20-%20designed%20ver2_0.pdf Accessed May
13, 2014
Te Honorable Gary Hart, Chairman
Senator Hart served the State of Colorado in the
U.S. Senate and was a member of the Committee
on Armed Services during his tenure.
Stuart Piltch
Stuart Piltch is the Co-Founder and Managing
Director of Cambridge Advisory Group, an
actuarial and benefts consulting frm based in
Philadelphia.
Norman R. Augustine
Mr. Augustine was Chairman and Principal
Ofcer of the American Red Cross for nine
years and Chairman of the Council of the
National Academy of Engineering.
Te Hon. Donald Beyer
Te Hon. Donald Beyer is the former United
States Ambassador to to Switzerland and
Liechtenstein, as well as a former Lieutenant
Governor and President of the Senate of Virginia.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Robert B. Crowe
Robert B. Crowe is a Partner of Nelson
Mullins Riley & Scarborough in its Boston and
Washington, DC ofces. He is co-chair of the
frms Government Relations practice.
Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (Ret.)
Brigadier General Cheney is the Chief Executive
Ofcer of ASP.
Lieutenant General Daniel Christman, USA (Ret.)
Lieutenant General Christman is Senior Vice
President for International Afairs at the United
States Chamber of Commerce.
Lieutenant General John Castellaw, USMC (Ret.)
John Castellaw is President of the Crockett Policy
Institute (CPI), a non-partisan policy and research
organization headquartered in Tennessee.
Nelson W. Cunningham
Nelson Cunningham is President of
McLarty Associates.
Lee Cullum
Lee Cullum, at one time a commentator on the
PBS NewsHour and All Tings Considered
on NPR, currently contributes to the Dallas
Morning News and hosts CEO.
Admiral William Fallon, USN (Ret.)
Admiral Fallon has led U.S. and Allied forces and
played a leadership role in military and diplomatic
matters at the highest levels of the U.S. government.
Raj Fernando
Raj Fernando is CEO and founder of
Chopper Trading, a technology based trading
frm headquartered in Chicago.
Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, USN (Ret.)
Vice Admiral Gunn is the President of the
Institute of Public Research at the CNA
Corporation, a non-proft corporation in Virginia.
General Lester L. Lyles, USAF (Ret.)
General Lyles retired from the United States Air Force
after a distinguished 35 year career. He is presently
Chairman of USAA, a member of the Defense
Science Board, and a member of the Presidents
Intelligence Advisory Board.
Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, USA (Ret.)
Lieutenant General Kennedy was the frst woman
to achieve the rank of three-star general in the
United States Army.
Dennis Mehiel
Dennis Mehiel is the Principal Shareholder
and Chairman of U.S. Corrugated, Inc.
Ed Reilly
Edward Reilly is CEO of Americas of FD
International Limited, a leading global
communications consultancy that is part of FTI
Consulting, Inc.
Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Christine Todd Whitman is the President of the
Whitman Strategy Group, a consulting frm that
specializes in energy and environmental issues.
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