More questions about unspent US funds for internet circumvention tools (updated).

Posted: 29 Oct 2010   Print   Send a link
Washington Post, 25 Oct 2010, Jackson Diehl: "That the [internet firewall-breaching] technology created by UltraReach and an affiliated company called Freegate works is not a matter of debate. Its success has been recognized from the State Department to the Chinese government, which has devoted enormous resources to trying to defeat it, so far unsuccessfully. The question is what is to be done. The companies' volunteer founders and operators say that if they could get $30 million in funding they could ramp up their server networks to accommodate millions more users -- and effectively destroy the Internet controls of Iran and most other dictatorships. Since 2007, a few in Congress have been trying to get that funding by putting earmarks into the State Department budget -- a total of $50 million so far. Yet the firewall-busting firms, which have formed an entity called the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, have yet to receive a dime. ... So why has nothing happened? The answer appears to be a mix of bureaucratic slowness, confusion over policy and -- just possibly -- a desire to avoid offending the Chinese government, which has denounced the Internet coalition as 'anti-China forces engaged in anti-China activities.' ... $1.5 million was given in August to the Broadcasting Board of Governors for distribution to the Global Internet Freedom Consortium. But the BBG has yet to turn over the funds." -- There have been many comments over the past couple of years about Congressional funds allocated for circumvention tools, but not spent. It would help for this subject to move beyond the op-ed pages, with investigative journalists looking into both sides of the issue. See previous post about same subject.

Update: The Weekly Standard, 26 Oct 2010, Kelley Currie: "[T]he problem is more complicated than mere access. As most anyone who lives in China and uses the Internet there can tell you, circumvention technology is relatively cheap and widely available. The thing is, aside from expatriates and a relatively small coterie of scholars, dissidents, journalists and the like, who seek a less filtered online experience, the overwhelming majority of Chinese Internet users seem quite content with their circumscribed version of the Internet and neither use nor seek out such technologies. For the aforementioned exceptions, as well as those who find the pornography and online gambling selections within the Great Firewall insufficient, virtual private networks or VPNs are all the rage. For everyone else, there are Chinese-language clones of Google, Facebook, Twitter and pretty much everything else, tailored to their needs to ensure that they don't feel they are missing out on anything. Within the bands of what is allowed by the Chinese government's complex, multi-layered censorship regime, there is a lively Chinese Internet experience that evinces a high degree of user satisfaction. The fact that the average Chinese user cannot access Facebook or various human rights NGO websites is largely meaningless for them simply because they are not trying nor do they have much desire to."