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July 10, 2009
Iran: Politics and Technology Update
I wanted to make another brief excursion here, since (as many of you will have seen on the news), the situation in Iran is still very volatile indeed. The proxy-server efforts that I've spoken about here have been overtaken by events - plaintext proxies are basically out of the picture, thanks to countermeasures by the Iranian government.
But there are other ways to get information in and out, as the number of video clips from yesterday's protests make clear. For a roundup, see this post from Massachusetts's own Tehran Bureau: "Geeks Around the Globe Rally to Help Iranians Online". I'm glad to number myself among them.
One aspect of said geekdom is supporting Tor. I'm running a relay on my home computer - that's my machine, the relay named "levoglucosan" on this list of current routers. Setting up Tor took about five minutes to (but no real geek skills whatsoever, as opposed to getting the proxy servers going). Tor's getting a lot of use, as the Tehran Bureau post makes clear:
“Before the election we were seeing about one to two hundred new users [from Iran] per day,” says Andrew Lewman, executive director of The Tor Project.
“Right after the election and as the protests started we started seeing that spike up into 700 – 1,000 per day. Now we’re up to about 2,000 new users a day and around 8,000 connections sustained at any time, which is a huge, dramatic increase.”
The Canadians are doing their part via Psiphon, which has also had thousands of Iranian users recently. Another new effort is Haystack, a new anonymous-access tool which has been specifically designed to circumvent the Iranian regime's web filtering tools. It's modeled on Freegate, which has been giving the Great Firewall of China fits (and has also been useful in Iran, although they've had to cut access back to keep their Chinese bandwidth up). Haystack appears to have had its first test inside Iran yesterday, and appears to be working just as planned. With any luck, it'll soon be giving fits to the Iranian web censors, too: the kind of government that beats unarmed protestors in the streets, that breaks down doors in the middle of the night to haul people away just for suggesting in public that they don't like their leaders.
As a scientist, I believe in freedom of expression and freedom of inquiry. I've donated money and time to the efforts linked to above, and I'd like to urge that others do the same if they can.
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