Documenting Human Rights Violations in Challenging Environments

In many countries, the government censors certain websites, blogs and social media networks to stifle dissent and filter the type of information the population is able to access. Censorship can pose a challenge to people like you, who are trying to collect information about a particular topic. If you are having trouble accessing information due to censorship, there are a number of tools you can use, including proxy servers, anonymizing peer-to-peer networks, alternative DNS root name servers and private alternative network devices. Here is a list of tools you can use and links to their websites where you can find more information about how to use them:

  • The Tor Project allows users to transmit messages and access websites anonymously by disguising their IP addresses (and thus shielding their locations and any other identifying information).
  • Psiphon is a proxy server software which enables users to access censored websites by establishing connections through an intermediate, non-censored system. The project views the Internet as a “global commons.”
  • FreedomBox is a project designed to “facilitate free communication among people, safely and securely, beyond the ambition of the strongest power to penetrate”, and the project’s website explicitly describes itself as a “platform that resists oppression and censorship”, and “an organizing tool for democratic activities in hostile regimes.”
  • Diaspora tries to provide Facebook-like functionality without being dependent on a centralized company which stores information about its users.
  • The Serval Project is free open-source software under development for mobile telephones, letting them communicate even in the absence of phone towers and supporting infrastructure.

“Tor recorded its highest usage rates in Iran [2009 elections] while the Iranian government was blocking the Internet most heavily.”

- Andrew Lewman, Executive Director, Tor Project