It’s widely known in cyber circles that, when the Arab Spring protests happened in Egypt in 2011, website blockage escalated: Certain governments try to control the information flowing into and out of their countries for political and other reasons.
But exactly when and where such censorship is being done has proven hard to measure.
A graphic from a University of Washington study showing the number of inaccessible domains in each country.
Now, researchers from the University of Michigan are enlisting 400,000 servers around the world to monitor censorship and network interference. Their project is called Censored Planet.
“Ideally, a router’s job is to send data forward—but they are smarter now. Some very clever things are being used to block access to information,” said Benjamin Vandersloot, a University of Michigan computer science and engineering doctoral student, speaking on Jan. 10 at the Fordham-FBI 2018 International Conference on Cyber Security.
Say, for example, that you want to send a message to Facebook. Your request pings from router to ISP to another to another (many others) and then eventually to the Facebook server itself.
“If you are in China, you are going to bounce by a router controlled by the Chinese government or a hired hand they control,” said Vandersloot. “China and Iran are the most public countries about web censorship practices. Right now, it’s currently accelerated in Iran because of the protests.”
Greatfire Is Blocked
One site censored in China is Greatfire.org https://en.greatfire.org/, a website dedicated to listing where internet censorship is being anecdotally reported in China itself. “They don’t want this transparency in the process,” he said. “Moreover, they don’t want people even talking about censorship.”
Although nobody can say for certain that the persons pulling the switches are censoring, the project measures patterns that show connection breakdowns.
“Iran has shown increased censorship before around …