Feeds

US gov funds censorship-busting tech alternatives to Wikileaks

How about some Chinese or Iranian secrets for a change?

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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 ago, in which she warned that "nations that censor the internet should understand that our government is committed to helping promote internet freedom".

With the State Department putting its money where her mouth is, grants of between $500,000 and $8m are on offer this year, from a total pot of $30m.

As well as counter-censorship technologies, officials are seeking projects that will develop "technologies, techniques, and training to enhance the security of mobile communications" for activists. In regions where advocacy groups and civil society are under threat, "digital saftey training" programmes will be backed, as will campaigns for internet law reform and a rapid response fund for groups under immediate government pressure because of their online activism.

"On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does," said Clinton last year.

"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."

In China for example, the internet is heavily censored against pro-democracy material and banned religious beliefs. Beijing demands powers of surveillance over internet infrastructure that Western firms, including Google, have found objectionable.

The US government's multi-million dollar offering this week to counter such measures is not entirely unprecedented. Clinton last year boasted that her department was already supporting internet freedom projects in 40 countries, and the Tor Project, probably the best-known online counter-surveillance technology, was originally funded by the US Office of Naval Research.

Wikileaks supporters have seized on the State Department's grant offering as evidence of hypocrisy. The US government reacted with fury when the site last year published frontline intelligence reports and diplomatic cables, which had been allegedly supplied by Bradley Manning, a low-level Army intelligence specialist.

Yet a criticism levelled at Wikileaks, including by former insiders, has highlighted its focus on releasing US government documents. The secrets of the more malign, undemocratic regimes targeted by the State Department's grants are ignored in favour of aggravating Washington with dumps of unsurprising - yet classified - material, it's charged.

Julian Assange, who has repeatedly complained that Wikileaks volunteers have been stopped and searched at US airports, would have far greater reason for concern had they been detained by Chinese, Russian or Iranian authorities, Wikileaks' critics point out.

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

Full details of the State Department grant programme are here. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.