Friday, May 21, 2010

The ban on Youtube and Facebook and how to get around it

By now I'm sure all of you have heard or experienced the PTC ban on Youtube, Facebook and other websites such as Wikipedia and Flickr (briefly blocked) following the Lahore High Court ruling which initiated this stupidity in the first place. While I will admit that I'm fuming mad about this and happy that I am not in Pakistan at the moment, I have decided against going on about it mainly because:

1) All of my fellow Pakistani bloggers have done such a good job expressing my feelings ( To AKS at Five rupees, I feel exactly the way you do. And thanks to Huma Imtiaz, for harassing the authorities on my behalf)  and discussing the minefield issue of free speech  in this context (Kalsoom at CHUP, Sepia Mutiny, Saba Imtiaz, Umair J at  Recycled Thought). Also props to FK at Deadpan Thoughts for the most creative post title surrounding this controversy so far.

2) My opinion on the ban is not going to make a difference on the ban itself. While I am somewhat narcissistic, it is very unlikely that my vehement disagreement with the LHC ruling and subsequent bans will cause any of the decision makers in Pakistan to reconsider their actions.

3) Railing against this ban may be understandable but it is very much reactionary. Sort of like the incredibly asinine individuals who initiated this ban in the first place (the fact that I've used the word asinine  should give you an idea of how I feel about this).

 Considering the massive impact these bans are having and going to have on internet users in Pakistan, I have decided to be proactive by posting some simple ways of getting around this ban instead.

One way to get around the ban is to use web proxys or anonymizers. Anonymizers hide your personal IP information and  reroute the internet connection through various servers all over the world allowing individuals affected by bans to virtually reside in a different country. One of the best  free proxy servers out there is the Hide My Ass, which allows users to access the majority of sites. Hide my Ass also has a specific Youtube Proxy which allows Internet users to access Youtube without any restrictions.

While Hide My Ass is designed for general website blocking such as at school, work etc, Ultra Reach an organization against Internet Censorship of any kind has developed a software specifically designed to combat Internet censorship at a state level. Ultra Surf (which can be downloaded from the previous link), allows users in countries with intense internet restrictions (China, Saudi Arabia, Iran etc) to access the Internet freely. Please note that Ultra Surf is an executable file and does not require any installation process.

Some other software designed specifically to combat Internet censorship at a state level are:

FreeGate is an anti-censorship client software for a secure and faster internet.  It requires no installation or change in system setting and works with DynaWeb, a P2P-like proxy network system.

JAP makes it possible to surf the internet anonymously and unobservably. Instead of connecting directly to a webserver, users take a detour, connecting with encryption through several intermediaries, so-called Mixes. JAP uses a predetermined sequence for the mixes. Such a sequence of linked mixes is called a Mix Cascade which users can alter according to their own privacy preference.

Your Freedom
Your Freedom services makes accessible what is unaccessible to you, and it hides your network address from those who don’t need to know. It turns your own PC into an uncensored, anonymous web proxy and an uncensored, anonymous SOCKS proxy that your applications can use, and it can even get you connected to the Internet just as if you were using an unrestricted DSL or cable connection.

Hopster is all about open, safe and uncensored internet access and allows you to hide your real IP address while surfing the net. 

Freenet is free software which lets you publish and obtain information on the Internet without fear of censorship. To achieve this freedom, the network is entirely decentralized and publishers and consumers of information are anonymous.

Tor is a software project that helps you defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.Please note that installing this program is not enough and that there are specific guidelines that need to be followed in order to use this program as efficiently as possible.

HotSpot Shield HotSpot Shield creates a secure virtual private network (VPN) over your connection allowing you to bypass any ISP firewalls, including those set by your local ISP.

 Please note that information for all of these sites was taken from Zimbio.
P.S. A note to all of my readers, if you are in Pakistan and have some time on your hands, I would really appreciate it if you could test some of this software out. I would like to know whether the proxy software that I have provided is working in the context of the Pakistani censorship activities.