Internet Censorship in Burma Stepped Up

14 01 2007

With all the recent focus on Iran’s censorship practices, i figured i’ll call out attention to another country Burma which routinely censors the internet and has recently stepped up its efforts in policing the net and denying its citizens access to information.

With the aid of western technology companies such as the U.S company FortiNet, the military ruled country routinely filters political opposition websites, human rights pages, and perhaps most importantly proxy sites such as http://www.3proxy.com among many others which have in the past enabled Burmese citizens to circumvent and get around state implemented internet filters/firewalls to access banned content.

Internet policing in Burma stepped up

Correspondents and Desk reporter
Mizzima News (www.mizzma.com)

January 10, 2007 – Surfing the Internet is becoming more difficult by the day in Burma. The military ruled country has come down heavily on net users increasing the list of sites to be banned. Proxy sites used till Monday are not working any more. Internet users who want to use free emails and messengers like Google mail, Google Gtalk are now hastily looking for new proxy sites.

Since last Monday, the junta banned proxy sites such as http://www.polysolve.com , http://www.glite.sayni.net, http://www.3proxy.com, http://www.unipeak.com among others, which used to help surf banned sites including email service providers, political opposition sites, human rights pages and pornography for almost a year.

Internet surfers therefore cannot access free mail websites, messengers and are unable to communicate via the internet with people inside and outside the country.

Internet experts, however, suggest there are ways and means to get over this and the regime will lose out in a cat-and-mouse game.

Aung Kyaw Myo, the New Delhi based manager of Burma Information Technology said there are many proxy sites and a software called “Freedom” which is useful to Burmese Internet users.

“Countries into Internet censorship ban proxy sites when it becomes popular with many people using it. But if a proxy site is banned, there are still many left to use. Besides, you can use a local proxy software called ‘Freedom.’ You install this software in your computer and then you can surf the Internet and log onto banned sites. You can download it from http://www.your-freedom.net “, said Aung Kyaw Myo.

“Moreover, there is one more way. I haven’t tested it yet. It is Psiphon, an open source software which I noticed two months ago. It is said to be more secure than proxy servers. With this software, you can surf Internet freely from a computer somewhere outside Burma. For example, you can operate a computer in India with Psiphon software and users in Burma with client software will have access to your computer and they can surf the Internet from there. If you want to study it check http://psiphon.civisec.org” he added.

This is not the first time that Burmese Internet users are experiencing censor-ship. Paris-based media watch dog, Reporters Sans Frontiers or RSF said the Burmese junta’s Internet policies are even more repressive than that of China and Vietnam.

“The military junta clearly filters opposition websites. It keeps a very close eye on Internet cafes, in which the computers automatically execute screen captures every five minutes, in order to monitor user activity.” said the RSF website.

Burma uses Fortiguard, an Internet filtering programme produced by a US company Fortinet.

Burma with two Internet Service Providers- Myanmar Posts and Telecommunica- tions and BaganNet, officially allow only government controlled e-mails in which your password is given by the authority.

If you type http://www.gmail.com in a computer with BaganNet Internet connection, “Access Denied” will appear on your screen while a computer with MPT shows “STOP Access is denied”.

However, some Burmese Internet users who are technically savvy have been using G-talk, Skype and VZO chat. They use those messengers via a proxy site or use Freedom software. Now, the government has banned these proxy sites and they are looking for new proxy sites.

Under BaganNet Internet connection, Google’s Gtalk and Google mail, popular among the Burmese has often been banned.

Last year, it was banned just after June 2006 19, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday and reopened after July 2006 3, coincidentally after the wedding ceremony of Senior General Than Shwe’s daughter.

Then, it was banned again until now since August 10, 2006.

However, MPT only banned Gmail not Gtalk. Only business houses use MPT while the majority is Bagan net users.

“SPDC doesn’t want to see information flowing into and outside Burma. That’s why they go for bans”, Aung Kyaw Myo said.

According to the RSF “The aim is two-fold: to defend the profitable long-distance telecommunications market, which is controlled by state companies, as well as to stop cyber-dissidents from using a means of communication that is hard to monitor”

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8 responses

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