Internet Freedom: Beyond Circumvention

Source: Ethan Zuckerman

Filed under: Geekery, Human Rights/Free Speech ::

Secretary Clinton’s recent speech on Internet Freedom has signaled a strong interest from the US State Department in promoting the use of the internet to promote political reforms in closed societies. It makes sense that the State Department would look to support existing projects to circumvent internet censorship. The New York Times reports that a group of senators is urging the Secretary to apply existing funding to support the development and expansion of censorship circumvention programs, including Tor, Psiphon and Freegate.

I’ve spent a good part of the last couple of years studying internet circumvention systems. My colleagues Hal Roberts, John Palfrey and I released a study last year that compared the strengths and weaknesses of different circumvention tools. Some of my work at Berkman is funded by a US state department grant that focuses on continuing to study and evaluate these sorts of tools and I spend a lot of time trying to coordinate efforts between tool developers and people who need access to circumvention tools to publish sensitive content.


The danger in heeding Secretary Clinton’s call is that we increase our speed, marching in the wrong direction. As we embrace the goal of Internet Freedom, now is the time to ask what we’re hoping to accomplish and to shape our strategy accordingly.

Thanks to Hal Roberts, Janet Haven and Rebecca MacKinnon for help editing and improving this post. They’re responsible for the good parts – you can blame the rest on me.