Iran and Web Proxies

Iran’s Internet censorship regime is generally accepted to be one of the most aggressive in the world, yet according to the New York Times, by autumn 2008, more than 400,000 Iranians were able to access an uncensored web thanks to a software created by Chinese computer experts working for Falun Gong.

This software is not unique. Several other projects offer a similar product. The Tor Project offers software originally developed at the US Naval Research Lab that can be used to send messages secretly or reach blocked websites. Moreover, scientists at the University of Toronto have developed a program called Psiphon that enables users to evade firewalls using only a web browser.

A warning on Psiphon’s website indicates the substantial risk involved: “Bypassing censorship may violate law. Serious thought should be given to the risks involved and potential consequences.”

The software enables the end user to connect to a computer abroad and then redirects the request to a censored site.

Ultimately, computing limitations proved to be a temporary setback. By January 2009, Falun Gong servers lacked the power to continue provision to Iran, resulting in a shutdown of the service in all countries except China.