Internet users in two of the world’s most restrictive states, China and Iran, may soon be able to easily and quickly by-pass government censorship of the sites they visit.
The US Government is testing a system called Feed Over Email that allows users to access content from websites without restrictions using a normal web-based email account. The only restriction on the service is that pornography will be filtered out.
The power of internet access for people in oppressive regimes was made clear during the recent unrest in Iran following disputed election results. Iranians were able to use services like Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed to get their message out to the wider world in a way they never could previously. These services, and many websites such as blogs, are routinely blocked by governments keen to control exactly what their citizens know and say.
The new US system will be of huge benefit to the people of countries where the government controls the flow of information tightly. Proxy tunnels have become increasingly important for internet users in these countries, but these can easily be blocked as they are discovered by the authorities.
There’s little word as to exactly how the Feed Over Email system will work, but testing in China and Iran is said to be underway. With the US State in control of the system, there’s little doubt that this system is designed as a hostile act against the regimes in oppressive states. Give the people freedom to read information and they are more likely to rise up against those in power.
Political motives aside, this is a positive move for personal freedom and it will be interesting to see how it develops.