Teaching Iranians About Free Speech

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Reader Rick Barton passes along a funny story from New Scientist:

A web-proxy service set up by the US government's International Broadcasting Bureau to enable websurfers in Iran to evade censorship is itself massively censoring what they can see.

That is the conclusion of an independent new report released from the OpenNet Initiative, an international collaboration between researchers at the University of Toronto, Harvard University and the University of Cambridge….

"This simply looks at the domain name", says Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard Law School, a coauthor of the report, and filters out any that contain words on a banned list.

One banned word is "ass", which blocks some pornography sites but also blocks the sites "usembassy.state.gov" and "www.grass-roots.org", says the report. Other words include "breast", "bush", "gay", "hot", "my", "old", "pic", "soft", "teen", "trans" and "tv". "They might as well filter every fifth website," says Zittrain.

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  1. Hypocrisy coming from the federal government? IMPOCEROS!

  2. Well, this is a taste of American freedom. Freedom is a big buzz word in advertising, defined along the lines of being free to put a Delco? battery in your Ford? car. Freedom no longer means free political speech (within 60 days of the election), nor the ability to bear arms (must be hidden, and then only with goverment permission), nor freedom from quartering soldiers (I’m paying for their condos instead), nor freedom from unreasonable search and seizures (illegally obtained evidence still acceptable at trial), nor from self incrimination (your DNA will be used to incriminate you)… I’ll stop at five, you get the idea.

    I bet just as our freedoms don’t measure anywhere near as they are idealized, so too I bet the oppressions elsewhere don’t often stand up to what we’re told. My travels in Latin America showed that government had almost no interaction in most people’s lives.

  3. Add censorship to the list of things that’s only immoral when NON-American governments do it.

  4. Interesting that “bush” is a blocked word. National Security reasons, no doubt.

    Other sites blocked based on that list: hotmail.com, everything under Malaysia’s and Tuvalu’s top-level domains, microsoft.com, massport.com, umass.edu, massfilc.org — hey, I’m the webmaster of that last one!

  5. garym,

    Let them know! The vast Iranian Filk SciFi fandom sub-genera :> will help put the pressure on our government to end this Trojan Horse censorship.

    A web-proxy service to enable web surfers in Iran evade censorship is a wonderful idea. But, letting our government do it has led to predictable results.

  6. We can sing about them, if nothing else.

    On a more serious note — can’t Iran just block access to the proxy service, making the whole thing moot?

  7. garym,

    Good question. BTW, the “Book Reviews by Gary McGath”: http://www.mcgath.com/revlist.html from your home page, (accessible by clicking on “garym”) looks very interesting.

  8. It also blocks the word “asian,” which is particularly amusing since the service intended for use in Iran and China.

  9. And what better way to woo Iranians than by showing them the wonders of censored uncensored web browsing?

    I bet we might actually win more Iranian hearts and minds with a browser that censored everything except porn sites! 🙂

  10. How will Iranians be able to go to the president’s campaign website to donate? 🙂

  11. ” That`s giving them a taste of America”
    Was Sen. Santorum in charge on this project?

  12. Yes, in fact I was.

    I view this as a pilot program before deploying it to every American computer. I want to make it so that porn can only be obtained on the black market. That will greatly enrich the mafiosi who pull my strings.

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