These Apps Combat Government Censorship On Social Media

Michaela Whitton
August 3, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — Entrepreneur Adam Fisk has developed two apps to ensure social media sites remain accessible when faced with government censorship. The importance of social media for activists and protesters has prompted regimes  throughout the world to block access to social media platforms.

Over the past several years, the world has seen a surge in public protests, from the Arab Spring to Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution.  As protesters took to the streets, they also took to social media sites to express frustrations and to document critical realities on the ground. Some governments have chosen to respond to the open nature of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter by shutting off access entirely. Others block specific pages, profiles, or videos.

The Lantern app will bypass these blockages in certain countries, giving the user access to sites that would otherwise be censored. “We started Lantern in 2010, prior to that I had been working in peer-to-peer software, I was one of the main programmers working on Limewire. During that time I realised that similar approaches and architectures could be used to combat censorship,” software programmer Adam Fisk told HuffPost.

Fisk described some of the techniques governments use to impose censorship, including DNS blocking and the blocking of  IP addresses and certain keywords. He claims Lantern gets around this in several ways, primarily using decentralised systems to sneak traffic through popular services—rather like hiding in a large crowd.

Fisk’s team has gone on to build an app for Android called FireTweet. The app unblocks Twitter and gives the user access anywhere in the world. It uses all of Lantern’s existing infrastructure to get around censors in parts of the world where Twitter is used as a political tool for citizen journalism—and is often the only way of having voices be heard.

The annual 2015 report of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) lists the 10 Most Censored Countries and describes various tactics used by governments to repress and intimidate. Methods of censorship include imprisonment and repressive laws, the crushing of independent journalism, harassment and abuse of journalists, and the refusal to provide mobile internet for citizens.

If you are reading this, the likelihood is that you are not being censored—but you never know when it may happen to you. If it does—there’s an app for that.

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Michaela Whitton joined Anti-Media as its first journalist abroad in May of 2015. Her topics of interest include human rights, conflict, the Middle East, Palestine, and Israel. Born and residing in the United Kingdom, she is also a photographer. Learn more about Whitton here!