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New tool for fighting Internet censorship likely ineffective

International electronic communications are essential to global trade and relations. Censorship programs of some countries can make this seem impossible. Fortunately, they are developing ways to overcome these barriers.

In a post by Fox News, an announcement made by the Defcon Hacker’s Conference details how the U.S. government is using a program called Feed Over email to bypass China’s government censors. Sho Ho spoke of the product and said she hopes it will soon help gain support for new ideas in tense political climates.

Problems with programs such as Feed Over email

This is an understandable motivation. However, I can see a few problems with solutions such as Feed Over email. No tool is foolproof and countries like China that practice political censorship will find a way to block such applications. The government has already renamed websites so that they are redirected to nonsensical domains and any messages are ultimately lost. After they they notice enough applications are bypassing censoring filters, they may end up blocking Internet access altogether or simply start reading individual emails. Citizens may be reluctant to read emails which may lead to government sanctions.

Tools such as Feed Over email are essentially proxy servers which governments can block whenever they find out about them. Of course, new tools can be developed as well, but they may need to be made available to their recipients. They are a temporary solution to censorship problems and not a perfect one.

Would more obvious solutions be any more effective?

Fox News reports say that organizations are working hard to develop other strategies to bypass censorship and promote net neutrality. These solutions may seem ideal for the moment, but I believe we may see the same problems with them as well. As governments are aware of breaches of their censorship programs, they may end up blocking services such as Twitter as well. Personally, I have a hard time seeing clever tools as a means of bypassing government censorship programs. Perhaps a better resolution is to work with countries and come to a better conclusion as to what policies are effective and what if any information should be restricted online.

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