The Internet lets people hear from places they otherwise couldn’t have heard of and learn things they otherwise wouldn’t have known. This is frightening to many governments, and they’ve installed all kinds of blocking to keep this from happening. They often offer phony excuses, such as national security and blocking pornography. It isn’t just countries like China and Iran that do this; the UK has imposed censorship filters which block a broad range of material. This specifically includes political censorship; Prime Minister Cameron has said that his “extremism task force” is “setting out a whole series of steps that we will take to counter the extremist narrative, including by blocking online sites.”
There are technologies that circumvent blocking, though, and it’s a constant arms race between the censors and the circumventers. One that’s being planned is Operator, a news reader that can get RSS feeds through various protocols. The aim is to let people access news feeds that are disguised as something else. Obviously this is a moving target, and new protocols will have to be developed as old ones are blocked. The application is initially aimed at OS X, with ports to other operating systems planned later.
It’s being funded through Kickstarter; I’ve pledged money to it, and I think it’s worth backing. The person behind it is Brandon Wiley, co-founder of the Freenet project. Cory Doctorow supports the project, referring to Wiley as “a P2P developer I’ve known and respected for more than a decade.”
The goal is $35,000. As I’m writing, this sentence, the amount pledged is … $3,756. Let’s make it happen!
Update: Given the theme of this blog, it’s appropriate that one of the updates for the Kickstarter project is titled “Build the world you want to live in.” That is indeed why I’m backing the project.