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The Technology Lag of Internet Censors

It’s quite reassuring in some ways that the technology that those who wish to censor and filter access the internet have at their disposal is often someway behind. Wiretappers, content filters are far from cutting edge but nevertheless they are unfortunately getting much more sophisticated.

If any one has ever worked with or worse had to configure these content filtering devices, you’ll realise the huge amount of work that is involved even maintaining them. The false positives and perpetual complaints you get when even a minimal level of filtering is applied is extremely surprising. Sure you can block words or URLs or patterns but you’ll always end up blocking more than you intended.

Take for example using DNS modifications to restrict access to banned web pages, most of the Scandinavian countries do this routinely. But it’s a pretty hopeless way of restricting content in my opinion. Firstly all you have to do is point your client at a different DNS server and you’ve bypassed it, secondly reason is that if you use the DNS method to say block a bad page on Youtube that you don’t like, you’ll have also blocked the entire domain Youtube!

But my funniest internet censoring attempt has to go to the Republic of Yemen, they’ve used a pretty decent content filter called Websense, they have control of the two ISPs so they should be able to control pretty much everything. Yemen of course seeks to block loads of stuff but fortunately they’ve done it rather badly. You see they didn’t buy enough licenses for Websense, in fact no where near enough. So if you’re unlucky you’ll be subject to a backward, restrictive internet policy but when enough Yemen users are online you’ll get unrestricted access as when the user amount is exceeded then no filtering happens.

You have to smile 🙂

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