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A possible technological solution to censorship

By Nyarlathotep in News
Sat Feb 19, 2000 at 03:16:48 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

We have all read the recent articles on slashdot about various governments (Australia & China) censoring their internet and the various attempts to get censorware installed in US libraries and schools. It seems to me that one of the most effective things we could do would be to create a sindicated blocked site list. With a little bit of commitment we could make the act of blocking a site have the opposite effect.


The idea is to start with a memepool style list of sites blocked by censorware, governements, etc., who blocked them, and have information for getting arrouind the block so people could get to these sites easily. We would probable want to use submission voting (ala kuro5hin), but perhaps restrict voting to people who can verify that a site is blocked, This publicity this would generate for blocked sites could go a long way to raising awairness.

Now, all the censors will censor our list, so the solution is to sindicate it to boxes on LOTS of other sites. News & discussion sites like kuro5hin and slashdot could carry this, but we would really want to start a campaign to get everyone to carry the list even jsut on personal homepages. I would like to see this be something like the blue ribon campaigns of the EFF, execpt that it would like to like 5 sites which were being blocked and have links for more informatin.

We would really want to have two seperate short syndicated lists, a news source for sites like slashdot and a blocked site of the day for people who want variety when nothing is being submitted. Do people have an suggestions or comments?

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A possible technological solution to censorship | 23 comments (23 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
I like the idea- it only stands to ... (none / 0) (#3)
by ramses0 on Sat Feb 19, 2000 at 03:23:37 PM EST

ramses0 voted 1 on this story.

I like the idea- it only stands to reason that you should be able to see what has been blocked (or maybe censor-companies think exactly the opposite). Regardless, without some sort of review, then censorship really becames a huge attack on personal freedom.
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]

Very interesting article... (none / 0) (#5)
by rajivvarma on Sat Feb 19, 2000 at 04:09:17 PM EST

rajivvarma voted 0 on this story.

Very interesting article

Rajiv Varma
Mirror of DeCSS.

An overly complicated scheme to stu... (none / 0) (#10)
by ohrn on Sat Feb 19, 2000 at 05:52:32 PM EST

ohrn voted -1 on this story.

An overly complicated scheme to stump Net Nanny. Let's discuss the real issue of censorship instead.

Interesting. But I'm a bit confused... (none / 0) (#2)
by joeyo on Sat Feb 19, 2000 at 06:17:08 PM EST

joeyo voted 1 on this story.

Interesting. But I'm a bit confused- is the idea to simply maintain a list of blocked sites or to use that list to mirror the blocked content in a distributed fashion?

--
"Give me enough variables to work with, and I can probably do away with the notion of human free will." -- demi

Re: Interesting. But I'm a bit confused... (none / 0) (#11)
by Nyarlathotep on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 01:20:51 AM EST

Interesting. But I'm a bit confused- is the idea to simply maintain a list of blocked sites or to use that list to mirror the blocked content in a distributed fashion?

Neither, it was to maintain a list of blocked sites then mirror links to the blocked sites *and* ways to getting arround the blocking software in a distributed fashion. The other critical idea is that it is EASY for anyone to include a blocked site of the day box on their own page. I guess I was a bit cronfusing.

I suppose people would want to mirror the contents of some sites since they might be political targets for threats (like the FBI shutting down Mike Z's site), but that is not really part of the system.. and slashdot is better for organising those sorts of mass mirrorings.


Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
There's a misspelling (it's "syndic... (none / 0) (#8)
by xah on Sat Feb 19, 2000 at 06:18:24 PM EST

xah voted -1 on this story.

There's a misspelling (it's "syndicate"). Also, I object to the word "memepool."

Re: There's a misspelling (it's "syndic... (none / 0) (#12)
by Nyarlathotep on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 01:24:45 AM EST

Also, I object to the word "memepool."

Memepool wqas refering to the look and feal of memepool.com, i.e. just a list of links with a little commentary. The original idea was just a blocked sites list which would look very simple, but if we wanted to include countries like Oz and China we might need seperate sctions which would make it a little more complex then memepool.com. Also, we would probable want to rerun sites as a random blocked site of the day banner.. further removing the site from the simplicity of memepool.com

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
Re: There's a misspelling (it's "syndic... (none / 0) (#15)
by ramses0 on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 02:16:59 AM EST

I like the idea of a "blocked site of the day" link (possibly a graphic referenced by <img src="blocked-today.com/dailylink.gif"> or something).

That'd be a really cool feature to have on my website- instead of linking directly to "www.porn-is-us.com", it would be nice if it linked to a "status page" for "www.porn-is-us.com", showing who blocks it- why they block it, a discussion about that site being blocked (like kuro5hin ;^)= and then, finally, a link to the site in question.

The only difficulty would be to verify that the site is blocked under certain programs.

Lemme know if anybody goes out and does this!

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]
Re: There's a misspelling (it's "syndic... (none / 0) (#16)
by Nyarlathotep on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 02:30:21 AM EST

The only difficulty would be to verify that the site is blocked under certain programs.

Rusty's brilliant success with story moderation has convinced me that it could be done via voting, but there are two seperate concerns: (1) is the site blocked and (2) do we care (i.e. will it piss people off that the site is blocked; we do not want to link to every porn site on the net).

The solution to (1) is restricting voting to people who can verify the status of the site. The solution to (2) is allowing all the respected users to vote on it. :)

Perhaps we could have two seperate voting booths (one for people who can show you that they have the program) and another for people who run a mirror (i.e. you can only vote on (2) if you run a mirror)

Also, the problems with discussion, forms, status pages, etc. is that they need to be centralised. I was thinking more of a brief description of the site and why it should not be blocked. Now, this description might be consolodated and voted on from a central discussion page, but these central discussion pages would almost certonly be blocked by all the blocking software.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
Nice idea. I doubt this is the best... (none / 0) (#6)
by fvw on Sat Feb 19, 2000 at 06:37:13 PM EST

fvw voted 1 on this story.

Nice idea. I doubt this is the best place to publish it, but what the heck.

Though the idea was moderately inte... (none / 0) (#9)
by jwy on Sat Feb 19, 2000 at 07:40:58 PM EST

jwy voted -1 on this story.

Though the idea was moderately interesting, it really irritates me when someone submits such an article without bothering to check his or her spelling and grammar.

Re: Though the idea was moderately inte... (none / 0) (#13)
by Nyarlathotep on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 01:26:06 AM EST

it really irritates me when someone submits such an article without bothering to check his or her spelling and grammar.

Objection noted.. I'll run ispell on it next time I submit something.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
Re: Though the idea was moderately inte... (none / 0) (#20)
by rajivvarma on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 12:06:26 PM EST

Hello:

A solution to this would be a on-site spell-checker. I, for one, would love to have this implemented.

Rajiv Varma

Rajiv Varma
Mirror of DeCSS.

[ Parent ]
Re: Though the idea was moderately inte... (none / 0) (#21)
by ramses0 on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 12:52:00 PM EST

That would even be almost not-too difficult to add. I know my "feature party" story submission hasn't made it to the front page, but you should take a look at the source code and see if there's a place where spell-checking seems natural.

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]
I like this. Also, blocking techni... (none / 0) (#4)
by bmetzler on Sat Feb 19, 2000 at 08:56:56 PM EST

bmetzler voted 1 on this story.

I like this. Also, blocking techniques are simple to circumvent completely. We just need to show people how. Filtering is very ineffective.
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.

Raise hell!... (none / 0) (#7)
by Valur on Sat Feb 19, 2000 at 11:46:42 PM EST

Valur voted 1 on this story.

Raise hell!

---
Hosting for creators: RPG-Works.Net

but only if you spell "syndicate" c... (none / 0) (#1)
by del on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 12:34:42 AM EST

del voted 1 on this story.

but only if you spell "syndicate" correctly.
--
how perfectly goddamned delightful it all is, to be sure

A technological issue with the idea (none / 0) (#14)
by Nyarlathotep on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 01:42:41 AM EST

The idea was that LOTS of sites would carry the blocked site of the day list so this means it needs to be easy for people to add it to their site and their need to be way for people to add it who do not have access to CGI's. I have the following idea to solve this: The one thing that everyone knows how to do is add a graphic to their web site, so you host a blocked site of the day link as a couple graphics. You must host the graphic in a distributed manor to keep it from being blocked too, so you would need lots of people to mirror it (or use the script to generate the daily graphics themselves) and a database of unblocked URL for the graphic. It would be impossible block every URL in the database since you would make it easy to obtain a few URLs from the database but very difficult to obtain a large percentage of the database.

Clearly, the FAQ about getting arround the censorware would need to be mirrored on most of the sites too.

Can people think of other technical issues? Like a schemes to prevent the blocking software from detecting the blocked site of the day graphic in a page? Maybe you could have the script which generate the graphics cycle the fonts to prevent the graphics from looking too simillar.

Also, we would like to have a way to allow a site to specillize in some types of blocked sites, i.e. a left-wing site (like gays or feminists) could focus on left-wing sites which were blocked, a religious site could focus on blockings of religious texts, etc. I wouldn't want to create too much sorting work, but it would be a nice feature to make the problem more personal to people. Note: the focus could jsut be an increase in probablility and not necissarily a restriction.

I am also torn between making this a "look who was just blocked" or a "look who has been blocked for years" list. I personally think it needs both elements. Maybe we could just make the newer sites have a higher probablility of being on the list that day.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
Re: A possible technological solution to censorshi (none / 0) (#17)
by bludstone on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 06:17:40 AM EST

bad idea.

they would block the sites with the lists, unless you want to make geocities accounts all day, or have a few hundred shells to spare.

but you'll be doing something.. ^_^;

Re: A possible technological solution to censorshi (none / 0) (#18)
by Serf on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 07:19:05 AM EST

Well, actually, Geocities is already blocked here in China, along w/ the rest of the free homepage providers. But the blocking is really only a token countermeasure -- all sorts of proxies and anonymizer services are accessible.

The thing is that most people here simply don't care enough to find a proxy, use it, and read English-language news. As the late Deng Xiaoping said, "to get rich is glorious", and that seems to be a the prevailing wisdom these days.

[ Parent ]
Re: A possible technological solution to censorshi (none / 0) (#19)
by Nyarlathotep on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 11:21:16 AM EST

they would block the sites with the lists, unless you want to make geocities accounts all day, or have a few hundred shells to spare.

The whole idea was not to have a ''few hundered shells to spare,'' but to run a campaign which would get the links included on thousands and thousands of other sites. This is why I am making such a big deal about making easy to implement. China or a government might be able to block them all by having people look for them all day, but the censorware comapnies would be screwed. Plus, blocking all these sites would increase their flase block statistics considerably and make the software unacceptable to libraries.. a very good thing. Still th rea point of the thing is to maximise the number of people who get pissed off at censorware or at their government censoring them.

I really wish I had time to code up this project.. maybe this summer.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
Re: A possible technological solution to censorshi (none / 0) (#22)
by ramses0 on Sun Feb 20, 2000 at 04:01:42 PM EST

Post a link when you get some source code up ... I'm sure that Rusty will let user #82 post a link to some neat software next summer when we get to user #10000 ;^)=

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]
Re: A possible technological solution to censorshi (none / 0) (#23)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Feb 21, 2000 at 04:20:15 AM EST

<http://www.peacefire.org/> has information on "How to disable your blocking software: because ignorance shouldn't have to be hereditary"

The American Library Association's "Banned Books Week: Free People Read Freely" page: <http://www.ala.org/bbooks/> has considerable info on The Text Equivalent To Web Page Censoring. For more see:<http://www.google.com/search?q=banned+books>!

-from the Hermit @ <http://HavenWorks.com>;-)

A possible technological solution to censorship | 23 comments (23 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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