To mark World Day Against Cyber-Censorship (12 March), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is launching “Operation Collateral Freedom” to unblock nine censored websites in 11 countries that are on its list of “Enemies of the Internet.”
The “Enemies of the Internet” report that RSF publishes every year spotlights countries whose governments censor the Internet and deprive their inhabitants of online access to independently-reported news and information.
These countries include China, Iran, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.
To combat online censorship, RSF is making the following nine censored websites accessible in 11 countries where they are currently banned and blocked.
- Grani.ru, blocked in Russia, is now available at this address https://gr1.
- Fergananews.com blocked in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, is now available at https://fg1.global.ssl.fastly.
- The Tibet Post, blocked in China, is now available at https://tp1.global.ssl.fastly.
- Dan Lam Bao, blocked in Vietnam, is now available at https://dlb1.global.ssl.
- Mingjing News, blocked in China, is now available at https://mn1.global.ssl.fastly.
- Hablemos Press, blocked in Cuba, is now available at https://hp1.global.ssl.fastly.
- Gooya News, blocked in Iran, is now available at https://gn1.global.ssl.fastly.
- Gulf Centre for Human Rights, blocked in United Arab Emirates, is now available athttps://gc1.global.ssl.fastly.
- Bahrain Mirror, blocked in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, is now available athttps://bahrainmirror.global.
Collateral Freedom – the principle
To render these nine sites accessible to the public in these countries, RSF has created mirror copies and has placed each copy with hosting services in the cloud provided by Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
The countries concerned could block these services but almost certainly will not. Blocking Amazon or Microsoft or any major cloud computing service provider would cripple the thousands of tech companies that use them every day. The economic and political cost of blocking the mirror sites would therefore be too high.
That is why this operation is called “Collateral Freedom.” It exploits the collateral opportunities offered by the natural disinclination of governments to do themselves harm.
This operation, which will be maintained for several months, use the domain names and IP addresses of these cloud computing service providers.
The nine mirror sites are accessible only via https. Https is the secure version of http, the standard protocol for Internet browsing. All traffic between the user’s browser and an https website is encrypted, so using https prevents others from seeing the content of the visited webpages and therefore prevents any attempt to filter out content by using keywords.
To make freely-reported news and information available in these countries, RSF has invited all Internet users to join in this operation by posting this list on social networks with #CollateralFreedom.