Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bypassing censorship filters to do research

Sam Kean, Computer scientists use social networking to help foreign scholars bypass their governments' Web filters, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 23, 2007 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

...In the Western world, it is usually the criminal, the paranoid, or the very private who conceal tracks on the Internet. In countries with Web censorship, scholars must circumvent government filters just to write papers on human rights or study HIV transmission. Officials at the [University of Toronto's] Citizen Lab say 40 countries use some sort of Internet filtering, and without Tor, Psiphon, or other similar programs, many foreign academics might as well unplug their computers....

Iranian search engines reject the word "women," for example. The rationale? As Mr. Mirmirani writes in an e-mail message from Iran, the government claims 90 percent of people who search for "women" seek pornography, which is illegal.

For the same puritanical reasons, Iran outlaws searches for some seemingly unexceptionable terms. "Meat," Mr. [Jadi] Mirmirani writes, "could be used as a rude word for 'pretty woman' in Farsi." Therefore, searches on Muslim dietary restrictions are blocked. Referring to government officials, he says, "You can see how an ill mind assumes everybody's mind is also ill." ...