Monday, August 03, 2009

Practical Ways to Defend your Freedom of Speech


by Brad Taylor


The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released a White Paper [pdf here] suggesting ways for activists to use technology to protect free speech against censorship and retaliation from authoritarian regimes. The paper points out that the internet and other communication technologies have radically increased the scope for the dissemination of ideas, but has also given governments new means of discovering and punishing dissent. Some of the advice may be a little extreme for western countries at present, but it always pays to think ahead. It offers six practical ideas to protect your own freedom of speech, and four ways you can help others:

Ways to help yourself:

  1. Understand Risk Assessment: Identify the risks you face, how serious they are, are prioritize your responses.
  2. Beware of Malware: “If a government is able to install malware on the computer you are using, then it doesn’t matter what other steps you take: your files and communications will be subject to surveillance.”
  3. Choose the Least-Risky Communications Channels: Talking in person or over encrypted internet connections is good; talking over the phone or sending SMS, not so much.
  4. Use Encryption to Prevent Surveillance and Censorship of your Web Usage: Tor!
  5. Be Careful of What and Where You Publish: Don’t use your own name [Damn it!], use secure connections, and avoid hosting companies with a commercial presence in your country (since they’re more likely to give you up to the Feds).
  6. Use a Tor Bridge: Make it harder for authorities to know you’re using Tor, and keep the encryption alive even if shut off access to the public Tor network.

Ways to help others:

  1. Run a Tor Relay: Donate bandwidth to relay encrypted traffic between Tor nodes.
  2. Run a Tor Bridge: Like a relay, only secret.
  3. Run a Tor Exit Node: Connect the Tor network with the rest of the internet.
  4. Run a Proxy for Friends: Help out friends in places where censorship and surveillance are bigger problems.

There is much more information at the Surveillance Self-Defense Project. There’s not much you can do to change government policy, but there are many ways to render the edicts of the state ineffective.

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