Sunday, March 18, 2012

Evading Censorship: The Lifeblood of a Proxy-Service Provider

An urban myth exists that only criminals use proxy services. Certainly, there is a criminal facet, but according to USA statutes and United Nations' declarations, we have the right to access media on our own terms.

This environment has fostered companies to offer services that allow end users to circumvent censorship controls. As I pointed out in my previous post, a significant number of countries forbid and restrict the rights of free speech and access to media.

Without proxy-service providers, access to information is tightly controlled by restrictive governments, organizations, and companies. Proxy sites grant their customers (end users) varying degrees of anonymity, depending on end-user needs and capabilities of a proxy-service provider. For example, within an autocratic regime, an end user would need total anonymity to avoid persecution. Similarly, those living in crime-ridden regions can protect their identities and account information via a proxy account. Then, even well-meaning governments put controls in place that restrict access to information. Proxies circumvent such controls.

Living in Australia, I miss my favorite TV shows and radio stations from the USA. Digital-rights management (DRM), the annoying recording-industry associations, and the US government do their best to restrict access to my favorites because I'm outside the USA's borders. If I had access to a proxy service, I could watch and listen to those favorites because the proxy site would protect my identity. They do this by hiding my IP address and related info and forwarding one of their own IP addresses (which, in this case, would be a US IP address; thus, it would appear I was in the USA). ( ) presents a very good overview, along with details and recommendations, regarding proxy services. I highly recommend that you visit their site, particularly if you are enduring restrictions to free speach and access to media. You can find help via the information at this site.

Although recommended by, a service provider by the name of declined my request for an interview. Here are the interview questions, in the hopes that a proxy-service provider would like to step in and answer them. The answers could prove helpful to those in need or just interested about these purveyors of free speach and media access. My thanks to David Weir as I folowed his interview-question format and flow.

This interview comes on the heels of PayPal’s recent attempt to suppress the distribution of certain types of erotica. I am asking for views on the attempts to restrict access to media and what impact it would have on those offering proxy services.

1.      When did you first come up with the idea of offering proxy services, what was your motivation, and what were the results?

2.      Can you quantify your current success for us?

4.      Similarly, how much feedback do you get from your company's critics? What is your sense of who they are?

5.      How is your company/organization protected from pressures brought on by governments? What measures and controls are in place to prevent such an entity from gaining access to your customer list and data?

6.      Reporters without Borders compiles an annual index of countries and their positions and actions regarding free speech, access to media, and censorship controls. What are the opportunities your organization's services? What are the challenges and barriers to success?  

7.      There are governments that will imprison and/or murder their citizens who attempt to circumvent government censorship controls. What tensions and motivators must exist for someone living in such a country to subscribe to your site?

8.      Are there any differences in offerings and/or design that distinguish you from your competitors?

9.      What are the most common metrics among your customers and their circumstances?

10.   What advice do you have for those considering subscribing to a proxy service? With the ever-present fear of government intervention and retaliation, how do you get the word out about proxy services to those with restricted access to media? How successful have you been in reaching out to this market?

11.   Can you walk us through the recent crackdown attempt on access to media by Pakistan's democratically-elected government?

12.   With the plethora of works protected by digital-rights management (DRM) and country- and regional-controls, why should proxy services be protected and allowed to thrive?

13.   What does research tell you about censorship trends?

14.   Censorship is a "slippery slope." What are the ramifications for a government, institution, or company that endorses censorship and denies access to media?

15.   Pakistan's government has advertised that it wants to implement a filtering and blocking platform that can restrict access to 50 million URLs at a time. What does this capability mean for the future of proxy-service providers?

16.   What are your company's greatest challenges and how do you plan to address them?

Thank you for your time and for sharing your thoughts with my blog's readers.
With kind regards,
LC Cooper

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