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Old 9th May 2006, 04:18 AM
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Tearing Down China's Great Firewall

Quote:
Revenge of the nerds
Three computer geeks at the U of T are renowned developers of anti-censorship software, including a program out this month that could allow people to outwit the world's most repressive regimes

Looking at them you might not guess it. But deep in a basement room on the University of Toronto campus, three unassuming computer hackers with messy hair and wrinkled T-shirts are working to tear down China's "Great Firewall," the most sophisticated Internet censorship system in the world.

But the computer smarts of Ron Deibert, Nart Villeneuve, and Michael Hull, combined with their passion for politics and free expression, have led them to develop a highly anticipated software program that allows Internet users inside China and other countries, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Burma, to get around repressive censorship and not get caught.

Their innovation is called Psiphon, and it's being launched at the end of this month.

Psiphon takes the concept of a third-party computer doing the work yours can't because of censorship, and protects it by relying on trusted friends and close family, to create a program the creators say is nearly fail-safe.


The program is needed more than ever, as the number of countries that censor or filter the Internet continues to grow. China alone has reportedly spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its Great Firewall, as it's known outside the country. Thousands of people stand guard on it.


China blocks countless websites, from ones featuring porn to those devoted to Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned in China. Anything on human rights is off-limits. Same for democracy.

Late last month, the wildly popular website Technorati, which searches the Internet for blogs, or personal Web journals, vanished in China despite the fact that the country has one of the fastest growing blogospheres in the world. A spokesperson for the San Francisco-based Technorati told the Star it wasn't clear how or why the site was blocked.

What does Villeneuve, 31, who spawned the idea of Psiphon, think about challenging the likes of China? He puts down his Che Guevara mug and thinks for a moment. He shrugs his shoulders and smirks: "It just seems like the right thing to do."
http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Con...2154&t=TS_Home
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