back to article US gov funds censorship-busting tech alternatives to Wikileaks

The US State Department, still reeling from its own battle with the online activists of Wikileaks, is nevertheless offering cash grants for technology to circumvent internet censorship by the Chinese and Iranian governments. The call for applications follows a high-profile speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a year …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    On Message

    Pot to kettle

    Message received and understood, over.

  2. brain_flakes
    Big Brother

    We support freedom of information

    (As long as it is only against our enemies)

  3. Rich 2 Silver badge


    Any comment I could make wouldn't shine a light to the irony and double standards at large here.

    God Bless America!

  4. Code Monkey


    After a couple of weeks' laziness and limited IT press I'm not ready for such irony. I'm off for a lie down.

    God bless the land of the free.

  5. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    Counter measures against internet censorship...

    ... also means a first step towards developing so called "counter counter measures".

    Once they know how people can most effectively circumvent government Internet censorship, they will also know what to aim at, in developing new means of censorship. Its typical military style thinking, develop new technology, then develop counter measures to it, then develop counter counter measures and so on. Its a leap frog approach to working out each new chess move. After all the US keeps on saying it wants to stay one step ahead all the time. (Its even the founding principle upon which DARPA was originally created, to in their own words, "prevent technological surprise").

    But then our leaders need to tell us minions something that appears to sound good to get us all to allow them to spend millions more of our money. Hence these high "high-profile speech" announcements. Yet its really just the next round of chess moves to avoid future “technological surprises” like Wikileaks.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    bart simpson

    The ironing's delicious.

  7. Mystic Megabyte

    Dot Dot Dot Dash?

    And now for the news from VOA...

    The Lion is in the long grass.

    Aunt Mabel has a new bag.

    The North wind will bring snow.

    in other news.....

  8. mhenriday
    Big Brother

    «War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength»

    «We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world's information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.»


  9. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Hypocrisy to Warp Factor 10!

    "nations that censor the internet should understand that our government is committed to helping promote internet freedom" - Hilary Clinton


  10. Chris Miller

    For the benefit of the hard of understanding

    It is not *necessarily* hypocritical to say:

    [a] I have private information that I do not wish to be made public; and

    [b] I have public information that I do not wish others to be prevented from seeing.

    I now return you to our usual comments.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Chris Miller

      Your statement is right. But completely irrelevant.

      Hillary did not say what you say she said. In actuality she said something akin to?

      [a] I do not agree with states censoring the Internet; and

      [b] My state (for which I have a great degree of responsibility) censors the Internet

  11. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    @Chris Miller

    However it *is* hypocritical for the US to demand that people who reveal *their* secrets be censored (or even charged with "treason"!) whilst at the same time saying that it's ok when it's *other countries'* censorship!

    1. ViagraFalls


      There's quite a difference between publishing classifed documents on teh Interwebs, or prohibiting citizens from obtaining information that is public everywhere else.

      Censorship != restriction of access to secret documents.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Try again,

        but this time a little harder!

      2. Graham Marsden


        The US Government wants to classify anything which it thinks that its people "don't need to know". The Chinese Government wants to deny people access to anything which thinks they "don't need to know".

        How fine do you want to split that hair?

        1. ViagraFalls

          Oh, come on...

          You really are arguing that the US, which has a freedom of information act, somehow compares to China, where every piece of information about "sects" deemed hostile to the Chinese government, or pure history denying such as the tiananmen square happenings?

          1. Graham Marsden


            "A little bit censored" is like "a little bit pregnant".

            Try looking at the history of the US FOI act and see how it's been fought over by various Administrations and how the definition of "for national security" has changed (currently it allows for a retroactive determination of "for national security" *after* an FOI request is made!) and then tell me that the USA is really being as open and honest as it purports to be.

  12. Charles 9

    Here's a challenge...

    On a tangent pertaining to the drive to innovate an Internet that's harder to censor, how would you go about it under the auspices of "no expectation of privacy" (as in, all traffic is subject to monitoring and encryption is banned by law)? That seems like a challenge of almost DARPA level to me.

  13. F111F

    It Would Appear...

    ...from the commenters here that you (collectively) do not see any difference between supporting individual rights to publish private material (even if it's critical of government decisions or policies), and efforts to prevent and/or punish theft and subsequent publishing of communications between government agencies.

    It leads me to wonder the following:

    A) Would all those who call this measure hypocrisy be willing to have any and all private records open for public viewing, including financial and medical records? Or, barring such willingness, be supportive of a trusted agent (employee or relative, take your pick) who gives your information to someone else who then publishes your private records for your competitors and neighbors to read?

    B) Is there no government information that should be kept from public disclosure? For instance, tax records, or medical records for those whose tab was (at least) partially paid for by government funds? And does that mean procedures for protection of dangerous materials, including the access codes and locations and/or description of keys? Or, is it O.K. to have some level of privacy (or restriction of information to trusted agents, if you will), even in government, and what we should be discussing is what kinds of information should be public, along with what kinds should be withheld from public scrutiny?

    C) Assuming the "free love" attitude with information that seems to prevail here becomes the standard, does anyone here really think the world will be a safer or even less dangerous place? I could go for for the paranoid viewpoint and argue that secret ballots are a method for governments to keep control of the people (or companies to prevent unionization, etc), and therefore ballots should be made public so independent agencies can confirm the votes for each candidate/proposition. Of course that would open up avenues of retaliation against those who voted "incorrectly", however the greater good of transparency would be maintained. But, is transparency really the greater good?

    The two assumptions I'm operating from, if not totally obvious, is that there is information (personal, commercial, and governmental) that does not belong in the public arena. Second, that we have to have "trusted agents" in personal, commercial, and governmental areas who will control the information contained in that area. Whether that person is your significant other and has access to your bank accounts, or someone with a Secret clearance to peruse information from a variety of government agencies in the hunt for terrorists, we are going to have to trust them to do their duty. I also believe that, eventually, most government information (excluding personal information such as, but not necessarily limited to, tax and medical records for private individuals) should become public information, but the timing for some of that information should be well beyond any possible interest to anyone but historians.

    I'll get my coat now, it's the one soon to be covered in rotten eggs...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Government information is not personal information

      This is a complex debate and I'm not arguing for all government information to be public (like nuclear launch codes :)). But lumping citizen personal information with government information is a mistake. While it is fun to talk about hypocracy when Assange was up-in-arms about the leak of his case details from Sweden it is a fair point that personal information should remain private while as much as possible government information should be public. Information is power and if the government holds all the information on us, and we hold nothing on it, then we are afraid of it rather than the other way round.

      I think there is an interesting debate over whether all of the information released in the state dept memos should have been classified in the first place - I have seen comments (which might not mean anything) that some does not meet the conditions required for classification. Previous US administrations (pre 9/11) have tried to reduce the amount of classified information but were largely unsuccessful.

      You ask whether transparency is really the greater good. I think history has shown that people will do many terrible things if they think they can get away with it. In most cases they can get away with it because nobody knows what is going on. Transparency is good, whether it is British MP expenses or war crimes abroad.

      Yes transparency has a risk when dealing with criminals - but perhaps that is the price we pay for living in the free world.

    2. Red Bren

      In an ideal world

      Yes, there would be a clear distinction between information that belongs in the public domain and information that needs to be kept secret. Sadly in the real world, there are those who aim to profit or cover their shortcomings by ignoring the distinction and hiding information that should be public amongst the secrets. For example, MPs' expenses, intelligence reports prior to sexing-up, coroner's report into whistle-blower's suicide. In order to liberate this information, other things that should be secret might get exposed. But it is the whistle-blowers that get called criminal/terrorist, rather than the those who hid the guilty secrets.

      We really need an amendment to the Official Secrets Act that makes it treason to hide information that should be public.

    3. oroboros

      Are you reading correctly?

      No, people here (collectively) see the situation as another notch in the US of A's belt of hypocrisy (trust me, I'm an American, hypocrisy is a badge of honor here). Your argument is an assumed straw man that nobody has actually argued. Go ahead and take down the zero people who have said there should be no private material anywhere. Congratulations, you win -- against nobody!

  14. Not Fred31

    talk is cheap, mastercard is priceless

    If you have Mastercard, Paypal, Visa, EveryDNS, Amazon, etc, doing the censorship for you, it is perfectly easy to be tough on censorship laws.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    However, to answer what I gleaned from a quick skim: The point is not that we want all information to be free and available regardless, it is that Hillary Clinton has railed against states that censor the Internet whilst her own state (for which she is Secretary of State) censors the internet.

    Personally I don't want all my information making public, but I am not calling for the entirety of anyone else's information to be made public either - that is what differentiates us from Secretary Clinton who seems to believe she can have her cake and eat it.

    If I claimed that homosexual sex was wrong and then was found to be partaking in said same-sex liaisons then I would be most certainly a hypocrite. If you called me out on being a hypocrite it wouldn't immediately mean you have agreed to let any fruity gentleman who wishes to have loving anal sex with you go at it like a deranged rabbit.

    1. Chris Miller

      But it doesn't

      You've twice claimed that "The US censors the Internet". But your say so does not make it true. I've searched diligently for references to 'the great firewall of the USA' but have been unable to find any.

      I can only assume that you are referring to attempts to prevent access to Wikileaks information. But (some of) this information has been obtained illegally (albeit not directly by Wikileaks) and, in any case, all of it remains freely available to US citizens. OTOH try typing "Tian An Men massacre" into a search engine in a Chinese Internet cafe and see what happens.

      PS I do hope this isn't so long a message that it exceeds your limited attention span.

      1. Mike VandeVelde

        a beacon of... umm...

        Well as mentioned above, the USA government hardly needs to censor anything when they have compliant corporations to do all the dirty work for them. But in a nutshell, China is not down with subversiveness and/or cults, USA is not down with subversiveness or sharing culture, UK is not down with subversiveness or anything even remotely related to child porn, Germany is not down with subversiveness or anything Nazi, Saudi Arabia is not down with liquor or basically any female skin, Japan is not down with pubic hair, etc etc etc. Everyone censors something.

        Here are some examples of just how freedom loving the USA actually is:

        etc etc etc.

        "When they do it, it's evil. When we do it, it's totally different!"

        Give me a break. Seriously.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My friend

        Google is your friend.

        Searching for various terms including internet, censor and USA generates millions of results. Take a few minutes to browse them and you will see what I mean. Just because there isn't a big fuck-off firewall doesn't mean censorship isn't taking place. The US government is more subtle than that.

        Here is an easy one:

        Obviously Wikipedia is not a wholly trustworthy source in itself, but their sources are listed so knock yourself out.

        When you have finished that look up the US banned books lists to get a feeling of censorship Old Skool.

        As a really easy case to think about, the USA censors websites that host illegal porn, however the definition of "illegal" is entirely a US centric one (as it should be, it is the US doing the censorship after all) as is the Chinese definition of illegal references to subversive material (such as the Tiannamen square massacre or various terrorist groups like those led by that dangerous Dalai Lama bloke). However the crux is that the US certainly does censor internet stuff.

        It is just that the USA seems to think, and Secretary Clinton has effectively stated, that US censorship is fine and dandy but other people's is a really Bad Thing.

        Now, you may or may not agree with some, all, none or fewer of the things that the US government censors, but that is irrelevant in terms of whether censorship is taking place or not.

        As for the Wikileaks stuff being available to US citizens, this is at odds with various stories, including this one from El Reg:

        "Earlier this month, the White House told federal employees and contractors they were barred from reading classified documents posted to WikiLeaks unless they had the proper security clearance. The rule applies when they're using government machines or their own personal computers."

        1. Chris Miller

          Some people will never get it

          USA censors porn, yeah I've always found it really difficult to access porn sites in the USA. I'm sure there must be *some* porn that is illegal, but I really don't want to look for it.

          And the USAF blocks access to Wikileaks *for their employees* at work. My employer blocks access to many sites at work. I don't worry about it, it's their train set after all. And I certainly don't think of it as censorship, but perhaps you do. If I feel a need to access such sites, I do it from home.

          It's bending the definition of censorship in a way that I wouldn't have thought possible (at least without the use of seriously psychoactive substances) to equate or even compare how the US limits Internet access with China or Iran.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Not getting it..

            a)US gov doesn't only block you from accessing stuff at work, it also tells you you cannot do it from home.

            b) If you don't understand the point that any censorship is censorship, and that just because you are happy with their version of it , doesnt make it right, ou are not seeing the big picture.

            1. Chris Miller

              @not getting it

              [a] the US gov doesn't *block* (censor) Wikileaks documents at home, it merely points out that some of them remain classified government material and there may be legal consequences if you choose to access it. Similar restrictions apply to things like kiddiporn (and possibly some of the more egregious sites may even be blocked).

              [b] viewing all censorship, no matter how minor, as equally wrong is not a very tenable position. It is logically true that any theft is theft, but we don't treat stealing a pen from your place of employment on an equal footing with a $20 million bank heist.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I humbly suggest it is you who doesn't get it

            Or has trouble reading or understanding.

            It is good for you that you don't want to access some of the stuff that the US government censors, but that doesn't change the fact that they censor it - both by attempting to block access and by prosecuting those who find a way around their restriction. In exactly the same way that China, Iran and so on do.

            If you actually read my previous reply (the one you are replying to under the title that implies I don't get "it") you will see the Register link and text that identifies a case of the US government forbidding anyone working for them to access the Wikileaks data without the proper clearance, even from their own home computer. So not just at work. The words are all there for you.

            So, try to read this slowly, it may help:

            -The Chinese government censors certain information on the internet, backed up with severe punishments for those that find a way round the censorship.

            -The US* government censors certain information on the internet, backed up with severe punishments for those that find a way round the censorship.

            The only difference is what is being censored, but to claim something censored is not being censored because either you don't want to see it anyway or because teh censor in question is not as bad as another censor is bending the definition of "not censoring" to a degree even John Prescott would find difficult to fathom.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          wikipedia article

          really onlu notes one example of state censorship - and that through a court injunction

          the rest is mostly about the sort of stuff that could be described as AUP for state institutions

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Anonymous Coward

    the funny thing is....'s application for a grant has already been submitted.

  17. Martin.Hale

    Title, Only Because It's Required

    "In response, Assange has said in interviews that Russian and Chinese leaks will be published in future."

    Sure they will. <snort></snort>

    If Mr. Assange and supporters think that the treatment he's currently being afforded is unjust and harsh, just wait until he crosses either of those two governments in a serious way. I doubt either would use the legal system to exact their ultimate revenge. Though they might go through the motions of a legal case against the leakers, I have every reason to believe that the real action would be clandestine and very nasty, indeed. Mr. Putin's peers have practical experience in such matters, after all, and it's all but certain that the Chinese have too.

    I think Mr. Assange and his cohorts know this full well and will always find reason to either post nothing from the Russians or Chinese, or post only material which is so milquetoast as to not offend them in any serious way. The US was chosen as a target in large part because Mr. Assange and company calculated that the US wouldn't/couldn't take any serious action against them for internal policy and external diplomacy reasons. All bets are off the table with the Russians and Chinese.

    1. Charles 9

      Unless Mr. Assange takes it into consideration.

      Perhaps in future he'll collect enough secrets to form an "insurance policy" and keep the Chinese/Russians at bay simply with the threat of releasing it in the event of his death and/or something permanent happening to Wikileaks. And I'm pretty sure they're familiar with dead-man's-hand-type plans--they've practiced them themselves and know that, set up right, nothing short of a "nuke-em-all" type of move, with associated consequences, would silence such an "insurance policy." Maybe that's all they're waiting for: enough secret material to protect themselves.

  18. Zero Sum

    The best I can get out of this is that...

    The best I can get out of this is that Hillary Clinton is at least prepared to open her inconsistencies for discussion. I assume that she is ready to debate them.

    That is a lot more than can be said for the unaccountable net-stranglers of China et al.

    While Clinton is ready to be held to her word (whether we like it or not), those others will never likely to be.

    That is the difference.

  19. efeffess

    Operation: Takeover

    I'm suspecting the U.S. will want to fund causes which will make WikiLeaks redundant. Once WikiLeaks is dead, the U.S. will already have control over those replacements, and will thus retain control over those leaks.

    This is mere speculation, mind you. The U.S. doesn't have the attention span to carry out such a prolonged attack when it has *real* wars to fight.

  20. Bounty

    There is a difference between freedom and anarchy.

    ( )

    Stopping slander isn't censorship.

    ( )

    "However, the unsealed documents reveal that the government never officially demanded the computer servers -- the subpoena to Rackspace only requested server log files"

    How about some context?

    ( )

    "These courageous writers were prevented by corporate media ownership from reporting major news stories"

    So somehow Hillary Clinton is responsible for corporate media making decisions on what to publish? Are you trying to imply our media can't publish anti-government articles? You know the Colbert Report is satire right?

    ( )

    "Archive for the Category ‘Top Censored Stories’"

    If they're Censored, why can I read them?

    ( )

    " "There was a moment about a year ago when you couldn't say a word about anything in this country for fear of your career being shot down by people saying you are un-American," he told the magazine. "

    If Elton John is afraid to come out of the closet on Iraq because of loosing profit, you're going to tell me that's Hillary Clinton's fault? I'm listening to Slayer right now. Trust me, they can and will say anything they want. If you're worried about losing profit for saying non-PC things, it's not censorship, it's life.

    ( When they do it, it's evil. When we do it, it's totally different! )

    ........... Really, you're going to equate the great firewall of China* with Elton John worrying about his fans disagreeing with his political views. We need to have a drink together, I'll bet you would say some really funny stuff.


    1. Mike VandeVelde

      I hope I make you laugh, it would be kind of sad if you were the only one not laughing

      "Stopping slander isn't censorship."

      The propaganda line goes something like this: in the beginning the founding fathers created a free society, and it has remained free ever since. At least that's what I understand they drill into your heads starting in elementary school. Who was being slandered by Janet's nipple? Did you actually read anything at that link? I read it again, nope no mention of slander. Just "protecting" the people from any sort of "indecent" thoughts.

      "How about some context?"

      The context is that the USA doesn't need a firewall, since they can march in and take servers and nobody is allowed to talk about it. Failing that, they can order any particular content simply removed. Failing that, they can order domain names taken away. Why censor when you can simply eliminate? Or even better yet why do anything when you have backdoors into everything and can monitor everyone? Once in a while you need to set an example I guess.

      Here's another one:

      And another:

      And another:

      "So somehow Hillary Clinton is responsible for corporate media making decisions on what to publish? Are you trying to imply our media can't publish anti-government articles? You know the Colbert Report is satire right?"

      As mentioned above, compliant corporations remove much of the need for any stronger government action. The government doesn't need to tell them not to, because of the environment created by government comments, they don't want to in the first place. Nothing too controversial or the advertising dollars flee, or maybe access to government gets harder, might not be able to send an "embedded" reporter out for the next dog & pony show, the parent conglomerate might lose out on some juicy contracts, etc.

      "If they're Censored, why can I read them?"

      Are you telling me that if "the great firewall of China" blocks something, that there is *no* *way* for *anyone* in China to access it? Pull the other one man. Because if anyone can access it, then by your definition it's not really censored, right?

      "If Elton John is afraid to come out of the closet on Iraq because of loosing profit, you're going to tell me that's Hillary Clinton's fault? I'm listening to Slayer right now. Trust me, they can and will say anything they want. If you're worried about losing profit for saying non-PC things, it's not censorship, it's life."

      Just a remark on the stifling environment in the west for dissent. Governments can afford to appear a little more lenient when agitators are marginalized by other power structures.

      "........... Really, you're going to equate the great firewall of China* with Elton John worrying about his fans disagreeing with his political views. We need to have a drink together, I'll bet you would say some really funny stuff."

      If you come away with that as the whole point of it all, then yes it certainly would be entertaining! When & where?

  21. Bounty

    more of our ultra-censorship govt in action

    "Republicans are planning to use the Internet as a sledgehammer to clobber the secretive way in which Congress has traditionally done business."

  22. KitD

    Tor ...

    advertises on its site that it has been used in the past by US Military transferring secret data over open networks. They could start there.

  23. Hooch181


    bit of irony there, but the whole situation seems to be full of it!

    As to the material being the same as someones personal privacy...No.

    It's the government established by the people for the people! Sure government have to have some secrets, but it is there responsibility to keep that secret. If it leaks into the public domain, well it's a bit to late by then! There is no expectation of privacy for a government.

    Now if this was personal information about a Senator/Congressman/Government Employee then this would be private information!

    It's the governments responsibility to keep this stuff secret, they failed!

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