To support the fight against censorship, an anonymous paid 5k to dine with Tim Ferris, an American author, investor, and entrepreneur, and Adam Fisk, CEO of the Brave New Software, supporting Indiegogo campaign for Lantern, however, with only three days left, the campaign barely raised the money given such a crucial problem they wish to address. Why is that, I wonder?
The campaign was launched in July, and is not particularly successful. Don’t we need a world without censorship? When Lantern was introduced, it was very well accepted (still is, as an idea), to say the least, especially in China, where more and more people started using it to bypass government-imposed censorships, and to access websites such as Facebook, YouTube or Twitter.
Lantern, an internet censorship circumvention tool, is built on P2P technology allowing users in countries with free internet access to donate a share of their internet bandwidth to those users in countries where certain websites are blocked (China or Iran, for instance). By running it, you become a gateway to the open internet for those in censored countries. Once you run an app for the first time (OS X, Windows, and Linux) simply indicate whether you wish to get or give access to censored websites.
For complete safety and security, according to developers, users in censored countries are advised to choose Lantern friends they trust, moreover, Lantern only sends traffic through peers up to four degrees away from the user in censored country. Furthermore, they are offering cloud-hosted servers for those without trusted relays. However, Lantern is not an anonymity tool, and is not designed to prevent monitoring, only to provide access.
„If you require that the sites you visit do not learn your IP address or physical location (they normally can, which may come as a surprise!) or you cannot risk network monitors being able to determine what sites you visit, we recommend you use Tor.”
“one last point on safety: With any tool, including both Lantern and Tor, you should never post sensitive content to a website that is hosted in a region where the government pursues people who post such content, especially if you live there. This is because a global network observer, like the government, can identify you as the user who uploaded that content and will be able to geolocate you.“
The Brave New Software team worked on something similar to Lantern, that is, uProxy, a Google supported project, and we are already familiar with it.
When it comes to anti-censorship tools, there are two things to consider – security and funding.
Though built as tools to provide more internet freedom and fight censorships, these tools are more prone than others to security vulnerabilities that bare great risks of putting people in even more danger. We all remember Haystack, the anti-censorship tool that was disabled and abandoned after a security researcher found serious holes in it, which endangered people more than it helped them.
As for funding, at the beginning, the US State Department funded Lantern, and Google supported uProxy, which, logically, opens questions. Tools with great potential to fight censorship are supported by the US government (the irony will be equally strong if it was any other government, probably) and a giant tech company who, to say it bluntly, already collects data worldwide. Truly, irony is in place.
Is this the reason why they turned to crowd funding campaigns? Perhaps. Indiegogo campaign started in July and up to now, it hasn’t been so successful. Supporters can contribute in other ways as well, in case they know coding (see their GitHub) or are interested in translating, above all by sharing the idea.
What is true is that there are people willing to help address the censorship problems many around the world are facing, and that they are passionate about it.
I may argue that we, who perhaps mostly face nothing but self-censorship (especially related to social networks) will never, truly know and understand what living under constant surveillance while lacking internet freedom is. We can also argue on whether the world without censorship is even possible, and of course, we can always argue on censorship in general.
This isn’t to say that the part of the world with let’s say “democratic or liberal” governments don’t experience censorship, just that we are not privileged to experience THE censorship as others are.