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Derived From: Congressional Research Service, Promoting Global Internet Freedom: Policy and Technology (Oct. 2013)

The BBG, through its Internet Anti-Censorship (IAC) Division, directly funds some of the initiatives to develop software and other technologies that allow dissidents to circumvent censorship and surveillance by their govern ments, and communicate freely. The FY2013 budget for the IAC was $9.1 million. Some of the specific initiatives include

  • development of Android apps, including censorship circumvention tools as well as secure device-to-device sharing of multimedia news and information;
  • development of an SMS-based social media network in Cuba;
  • ongoing evaluation of circumvention tools; and
  • working with the Tor Solutions Group to increase the number of high-speed Tor exit relays and bridges to improve the speed of the Tor network.
  • In July 2012, in conjunction with Freedom Hous e, the BBG released a report, “Safety on the Line: Exposing the Myth of Mobile Communication Security.” 11 The report evaluates the risks and vulnerabilities of mobile phone services and apps in 12 specified countries: the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Belarus, the People’s Re public of China, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Libya, the Sultan ate of Oman, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Tunisian Republic, the Republic of Uzbekistan, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The study analyzes multiple mobile technologies—including operating systems, applications, and mobile protocol—to determine their capacity to protect security and privacy and to combat censorship and surveillance.

    Voice of America

  • Budget
  • International Broadcasting Bureau $250m FY09 [VOA Annual Report 2009PDF]
  • FY 2001-02 $800,000 budget for "Internet and multimedia endhancement"
  • Circumventing Censorship (See Privacy / Circumvention Toos)
  • "Governments in China, Iran, and elsewhere invest significant resources to block websites, including those of BBG broadcasters. The Board underwrites Internet anti-censorship efforts, in which International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) experts work in tandem with other public and private-sector organizations in combating Web censorship." "To help audiences in authoritarian countries understand the principles and practices of democratic, free and just societies: . Combated censorship and signal interference through a number of innovative programs including use of multiple radio and TV broadcast frequencies and platforms and use of proxy servers and circumvention software." p. 43 [VOA Annual Report 2009PDF]
  • VOA uses web-proxies to help distribute its content to countries that block VOA sites. The proxies eventually get blocked, VOA sets up new proxies, and distributes through email the addresses of the new proxies. VOA also distributes Freegate client software to allow individuals unfettered access to the Internet.
  • VOA has collaborated with GIFC [Ramirez]
  • Worldnet Television and Film Service
  • SafeWeb
  • Triangle Boy
  • Thomas C Green Safeweb Aint All that, The Register Oct. 18th 2001 (Safeweb keeps logs for 7 days)
  • VOA Works to Circumvent China's Net Defenses, Freedom Forum (Sept 3, 2001) (" Voice of America officials say they expect to hire a CIA-funded Internet company to set up servers aimed at anonymously routing Chinese surfers to the censored sites." Safeweb, Inc)
  • The Victims of Iranian Censorship Act (VOICE ACT)
  • HR 2647 Sec. 1261 VOICE Act 111th Cong. Pub. L. 84
  • Sec. 1263 Iranian Electronic Education, Exchange, and Media Fund (a) Establishment- There is established in the Treasury of the United States the Iranian Electronic Education, Exchange, and Media Fund (referred to in this section as the `Fund'), consisting of amounts appropriated to the Fund pursuant to subsection (f).
    (b) Administration- The Fund shall be administered by the Secretary of State.
    (c) Objective- The objective of the Fund shall be to support the development of technologies, including Internet Web sites, that will aid the ability of the Iranian people to-- (1) gain access to and share information;
    (2) exercise freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly through the Internet and other electronic media;
    (3) engage in Internet-based education programs and other exchanges between Americans and Iranians; and
    (4) counter efforts-- (A) to block, censor, and monitor the Internet; and
    (B) to disrupt or monitor cellular phone networks or SMS text exchanges. (d) Use of Amounts- In pursuit of the objective described in subsection (c), amounts in the Fund may be used for grants to United States or foreign universities, nonprofit organizations, or companies for targeted projects that advance the purpose of the Fund, including projects that-- (1) develop Farsi-language versions of existing social-networking Web sites;
    (2) develop technologies, including Internet-based applications, to counter efforts-- (A) to block, censor, and monitor the Internet; and
    (B) to disrupt or monitor cellular phone networks or SMS text message exchanges; (3) develop Internet-based, distance learning programs for Iranian students at United States universities; and
    (4) promote Internet-based, people-to-people educational, professional, religious, or cultural exchanges and dialogues between United States citizens and Iranians. (e) Transfers- Amounts in the Fund may be transferred to the United States Agency for International Development, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or any other agency of the Federal Government to the extent that such amounts are used to carry out activities that will further the objective described in subsection (c). (f) Authorization of Appropriations- There is authorized to be appropriated $20,000,000 to the Fund.
  • " Authorizes $30 million to the Broadcasting Board of Governors to expand Farsi language broadcasting into Iran by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty's Radio Farda and the Voice of America's Persian News Network.
  • "Authorizes $20 million for a new "Iranian Electronic Education, Exchange, and Media Fund," which will support the development of technologies, including websites, that will aid the ability of the Iranian people to gain access to and share information; counter efforts to block, censor, or monitor the Internet in Iran; and engage in Internet-based education programs and other exchanges with Americans online.
  • Requires a report by the President on non-Iranian companies, including corporations with U.S. subsidiaries, that have aided the Iranian government's Internet censorship efforts, including by providing deep packet inspection technology.
  • White House Letter April 1, 2010 " Consistent with the authorities contained in section 1264 of the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act (Subtitle D of Title XII of Public Law 111-84, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010), I am providing a report prepared by my Administration. This report details U.S. efforts to ensure the free flow of information to Iran and to enhance the abilities of Iranians to exercise their universal rights. "
  • CRS Report to Congress, Internet Development and Information Control in the People's Republic in China , Feb. 2006
  • "U.S. government efforts to defeat Internet "jamming" include funding through the Broadcasting Board of Governors to provide counter-censorship software to Chinese Internet users to access Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) in China." . . . . .

    International Broadcasting Bureau. The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), has promoted Internet freedom in China by focusing on its Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) websites, which are regularly blocked by Chinese authorities. In 2001, the BBG provided $100,000 to Safeweb Inc., a government contracted company that also had been briefly funded by the CIA, to set up proxy servers to help Chinese Internet users access prohibited information.53 However, within a year, Safeweb's technology was reportedly unsuccessful in protecting user identities.

    Since 2003, the BBG has funded Dynamic Internet Technology (DynaWeb) and UltraReach, which have each developed software to enable Chinese Internet users to access VOA and RFA websites (see Table 1). Funding for these Chinese programs constitutes about three-fourths of the BBG's global anti-jamming expenditures, which are expected to grow by about 28% in 2006 from the previous year. DynaWeb's website is difficult to block because of "anonymizing" technology that regularly changes its numerical Internet Protocol (IP) address. Dynaweb president, Bill Xia, disclosed that earlier efforts to provide Chinese Internet users with unblocked IP addresses through an e-mail subscription service had failed because censors had also subscribed to the service, and quickly blocked those sites as well.

    According to Xia, DynaWeb must evolve according to how China censors the Internet, and that "both parties can always implement new technologies to stay ahead and sustain the advantage." However, in testimony before the Congressional- Executive Commission on China, Xia stated that censors have a "brighter future," because China purchases the most advanced censorship technology from Western companies and has more resources than counter-censorship efforts in the United States.

    Table 1. Broadcasting Board of Governors Funding for Counter-Censorship Technology in China

    FY2003 FY2004 FY2005
    Dynaweb $497,700 $806,326 $685,000
    UltraReach $3,000 $21,000 $42,003
    Total $500,700 $827,326 $727,003

    Source: Broadcasting Board of Governors.

    As of April 2005, Dynamic's homepage was viewed about 90,000 times per day, while UltraReach allows approximately 4,000 visits and 30,000 page views for VOA and 2,600 visits and 28,000 page views for RFA daily.57 Visits to these sites reportedly rise when PRC censorship tightens, such as during the SARS outbreak of 2003. The BBG disseminates Chinese-language news summaries, some of which contain critical opinions or stories about China, to recipients in China via e-mail. These e-mails employ techniques that circumvent censorship and include IP addresses of proxy servers through which users may view VOA and RFA reports.58 Some U.S. companies are developing software for Chinese Internet users to circumvent the PRC government censorship firewall entirely. In February 2006, Anonymizer Inc., a company that specializes in identity protection technology, announced that it was developing anti-censorship software for Internet users in the PRC. Anonymizer's China program would provide a regularly changing URL which Chinese Internet users could access for unfettered links to the World Wide Web. According to the company, users' identities would also be protected from online tracking and monitoring by the PRC government. Peacefire, a free speech advocacy organization and website, has developed protocols for circumventing Internet blocking programs that can be used by Chinese Web users.

  • References

  • VOA Annual Report 2009 PDF
  • CRS Report to Congress, Internet Development and Information Control in the People's Republic in China , Feb. 2006
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