Google has a new tool to thwart authoritarian censorship on the Internet

Importantly, during crackdowns, the SDK will make it easier for developers from different companies to work on the same code and enable them to execute updates more efficiently, allowing them to respond more quickly to the evolution of censorship tactics.

A simple solution

Several groups are already planning to deploy the new technology. Balatarin, a Persian Reddit-like site, plans to use the SDK to integrate VPN functionality directly into its mobile app. Balatarin is accustomed to Iranian government censorship; its website has been blocked in the country since its first months. NthLink will also use the SDK to make its app more likely to be updated during internet outages.

Balatarin says this new technology could help many more users access its services, especially those who aren’t particularly tech-savvy. Running a VPN requires a certain level of tech savvy, and also requires more power and battery than standard internet use. This is why a solution like the SDK is a good solution, says Mehdi Yahyanejad, the founder of Balatarin: “When the application is used, it will be much easier. And that would help users.

This simplicity is also crucial because the Iranian government has created its own limited version of the Internet and offers access at lower prices to businesses and households. (It also forced telecommunications companies to cede direct access to their networks and user information.) Iranian users who want to avoid being monitored or access blocked websites must endure awkward trips back and forth between the intranet and the Internet in the broad sense. , often at higher prices. The SDK will allow other developers to integrate VPN connectivity directly into apps for free, making it easier and potentially cheaper for users to access the wider web.

Of course, while the SDK could be a game-changer for websites like Balatarin, creating “practical, durable, and robust” censorship-resistant technology will require much more attention in the years to come, as more in addition to actors interfering with users. traffic, says Roya Ensafi, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan.

Ensafi, whose research team collaborates with Jigsaw on censorship measurement projects, says it is “optimistic” about the SDK, which it considers “a step in the right direction” for a field that often struggles to keep pace with volatile, costly developments and the evolving problem of censorship.

In the meantime, Jigsaw says it is working on integrations with other global partners and is focused on working with news and media applications.


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