Google today announced a new initiative called Project Shield, which lets webmasters leverage the company’s technology and infrastructure to protect websites from being taken offline by Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The project is currently invite-only, and Google says it is only seeking “trusted testers.”

Google says its goal is to defend free expression online. The company is inviting webmasters serving independent news, human rights, and elections-related content to apply to join by filling out a form on its site.

If you meet the criteria, you’ll need to provide an email address, your website URL, the average queries you receive per second, and the type of content you host on your site. You can also add optional comments to plead your case for being considered.

As can be expected, Google has provide a YouTube video explaining Project Shield in a bit more detail:

Project Shield currently combines Google’s DDoS own mitigation technologies as well as Page Speed Service (PSS). The latter allows websites to serve their content through Google, which of course has a massive infrastructure that can take the load of most DDoS attacks.

Since Project Shield relies on PSS, which is offered free of charge, it is also currently gratis. Google notes, however, that future pricing of PSS may apply to Project Shield users, but all users will be given 30-day notice of any pricing changes. That being said, Google hopes to offer the service to charities and non-profits at a reduced fee or at no cost in the future.

Google says Project Shield has already been quietly used by a number of trusted testers. These include Persian-language social and political blog Balatarin, the election monitoring service in Kenya, and Aymta, a website providing early-warning of scud missiles to people in Syria.

Update at 2:00PM EST: Google has now officially detailed Project Shield in a blog post, along with two other free expression tools. The Digital Attack Map is a live data visualization that maps DDoS attacks in real-time, and also lets people explore related news reports of outages happening on a given day. Meanwhile, is a new browser extension that lets friends provide each other with a trusted pathway to the Web, helping protect an Internet connection from filtering, surveillance, or misdirection.

Top Image Credit: Johannes Eisele/Getty Images