Developing Technology So Dissidents Can Use Social Media Covertly

Technology vs. Tyranny:

In an attempt to make it easier for dissidents in countries such as China and North Korea to communicate without fear of government sanctions, researchers at Georgia Tech have developed software that can hide information inside messages posted to Twitter and other social networks, as well as in images that can be uploaded to photo-sharing sites such as Flickr and Picasa. The researchers plan to unveil the program — known as Collage — and a related research paper at the Usenix security conference next month.

Some dissidents in China and other countries communicate using external proxy servers and anonymous-proxy software such as the open-source Tor program. But these require administration of a server, and can be detected and disabled or blocked by governments and security forces. By hiding communications in Twitter messages and images uploaded to photo-sharing sites, the researchers — Sam Burnett, Nick Feamster and Santosh Vempala — say that they hope to get around some of these issues:

Oppressive regimes and even democratic governments restrict Internet access. Existing anti-censorship systems often require users to connect through proxies, but these systems are relatively easy for a censor to discover and block. This project offers a possible next step in the censorship arms race: rather than relying on a single system or set of proxies to circumvent censorship firewalls, we explore whether the vast deployment of sites that host user-generated content can breach these firewalls.

Here’s hoping technology wins. And never becomes tyranny.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • karin

    i have questions.cant wait to see the presentation.will the software be free?can anyone use it anywhere?i thought china had blocked sites like google and twitter.im curious as to if it can/will be used here?i think its a great idea.governments have long used censorship and the lack of communication to hide their secrets, especially those related to human rights violations.


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