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Defining the Why?
Internet censorship in today's networked world is absurd, but true.
Censorship has been faced and contested throughout history, and while some instances can provide positive benefits to society and have majority acceptance (such as censoring child pornography). I believe that the internet censorship faced today in countries such as China, Turkey or Russia is detrimental.
Internet censorship as a form of enforcing totalitarian regimes and ideologies are structured in such a way to keep citizens uneducated, and in turn are infringing on their basic human rights.
Censoring content has been performed
around the world through
domain name server tampering
Quicker overview; Watch the product vision instead!
OKAY! So 'Censorship' is bad - we get it!
But what are we trying to solve here?
Wikipedia has a user base of almost 32.8 million people and is ranked as the 5th most visited website ever. Ironically, almost 38% of the internet users don’t have access to wikipedia entirely because it is either censored or screened by the government.
[It's hard to stop censoring of all information at once. However, it is critical that we find ways to make open source free platforms like Wikipedia available to all. And make information accessible and inclusive.]
So yes, I am trying to make Wikipedia more reachable.
Countries around the world have varied access to their respective Wikipedia sites over the years. The reason for such censorship and blockades has been justified by national security and harm to the country’s fundamental rights. However, governments have censored specific sites to protect their rational views and maintain a control over their citizens.
How did Wikipedia respond?
“Our position is that the block is an error. Wikipedia is not propaganda, it is basic information" - Jimmy Wales (CEO Wikipedia)
Wikipedia has supported its users in censored countries primarily by upgrading the website protocol from HTTP to HTTPS, therefore not allowing governments to track which specific page people are visiting, instead only showing that one has visited the domain and nothing else; making it more secure for users to access information without being monitored. The switch to HTTPS, while better in some ways, has ultimately led to the complete blocking of Wikipedia, and therefore, counter to their mission statement.
The main cause of this censorship is the ability of governments to intercept and track web traffic, so with our design solution I intend to create an accessible version of Wikipedia that is able to circumvent these methods.
While the change to an HTTPS protocol helped in some ways, it has introduced the problem of governments simply blocking the entirety of Wikipedia since they are no longer able to target specific pages. The best way I see to increase the accessibility of Wikipedia in heavily censored countries is to configure an alternate version of the website which could be accessed through the Tor web browser. If made accessible through this decentralized browser there would be no way for a government to track or block the web service short of disconnecting the internet entirely.
Ideating the How?
The Onion Routing Project (Tor) was developed in the mid-1990s by the United States Research Laboratory with the purpose of protecting US intelligence communications online, but today Tor is a free service that anybody can use to enable anonymous online communications. The system works by wrapping data in layers of encryption, hence onion, and sending it through several different routing nodes which remove a layer of encryption at each point until reaching the final destination, where the actual data is viewed by the target service. While the system is not full proof, it does a good job of hiding the source IP address from those who wish to track internet usage, such as governments. There are two types of website you can access through Tor; there are clear-net websites such as facebook.com which you can access through browsers like Chrome or Safari, and there are darknet websites such as facebookcorewwwi.onion which can only be accessed through the Tor browser. While using the Tor browser you can access either version of Facebook, with both having the same content, but the difference being the onion domain has gone through a process called “onionfication.” When you send data to a clear-net website it will eventually pass through an exit node, where the final layer of encryption is stripped away and the information is now viewable, and this final step is the biggest vulnerability of using Tor. All of the nodes on the Tor network are volunteer based meaning anybody can create their own exit node. Any large government organization could do this, including countries such as China, and monitor Tor traffic at the final stages in an attempt to find identifying information on citizens and their internet communications. The only way to completely negate this risk is through the onionfication of a website, which will allow data sent through the Tor network to be avoid exit nodes.