Sixth Form Life and Internet Censorship Circumvention

Sixth Form life is sweet. I’m sitting here, typing this post to you from the comfort of the common room, which they’ve now dubbed the “study centre” but nobody calls it that, as it’s a blatant misnomer. Absolutely no studying goes on here, most of the time. From the comfort of a Postura chair, equally a misnomer as the chairs are actually horrific in design and provide no benefit to your posture whatsoever, I can do work and evade the rowdiness of the library and sit with friends. The only positive about them is their colour – a nice blue – but if you’re a literature student like I am, the blue obviously represents the collective melancholy of the students inside the room, yeah yeah…

As a literature and language student I can definitely vouch this.

Also, if you bring your own computer into school you can run your own programmes and access your own, private files. This is an amazing benefit because you can, if you’re into that, run programmes that would otherwise be banned on the school systems. As I live in a nation that is slowly becoming a nanny state, following the USA as its lapdog – the UK – a lot of websites are blocked at school. I’m not sitting here trying to access porn, however. Reasonable sites that don’t even mean you’d be counterproductive on the event of you visiting them, are blocked. Earlier, a university site I wanted to look at to get course information from was blocked too – that’s a little bit weird.

I’m sure you’ve heard of The Onion Router or, as its known colloquially on the web, “Tor”. The Tor network is golden for freedom loving anarchistic whistleblowing moral social justice warrior types (as well as edgelords who have a love of gore, gun sites and weird porn hosted on ‘hidden websites’ using .onion domains) for the liberation it gives to people online. Activists that could be punished for simply having views that oppose the state are given this power technological tool to circumvent blocking and censorship, as well as being tracked by the government that overshadows them and prosecuted for publishing material about their views online. This is an absolute gift for people such as in the East right now, especially Womens’ rights activists for example, or general skeptics of dictatorships, etcetera. Long story short, you can stand up against tyranny with it – that’s an amazing feat, for a piece of software which weighs in at 40 or so megabytes unpacked and simply redirects your computer through different layers (hence ‘onion’) – which are different servers, on all across the world. Anyone can have one of these servers too, so it’s a peer to peer, decentralised network – an absolute nightmare for Law Enforcement Agencies. Tor is so effective that the Russian government even offered a cash prize for the person who could compromise Tor and work out who is doing what, behind the network. It is especially funny that the American government go to such great lengths to crack it too, as it is the product of American government research. One department is constantly trying to break what another department is constantly making better at concealing anonymity.

You can download Tor for many different devices running various operating systems. Windows, Linux and Mac are amongst these. http://www.torproject.org/

This wonderful and emancipating tool, of course, has a few more mundane uses. At school for instance, you can use it to visit blocked sites – which makes you some sort of technological messiah when everyone else succumbs to the censorship in effect on all of the school’s machines and any other devices  that are plainly connecting to the school’s network.

“How do you do that?” they ask – hoping you’ll do it for them too, before everyone realises and the teachers scratch their heads before working out how you did it. Meanwhile, you’re on YouTube, utterly procrastinating on their time and sacrificing their study periods – lessons that aren’t lessons essentially – where you’re expected to do some independent research. Hey, there’s no harm in ditching your further maths study to watch the heinously funny “Birdemic” while eating your lunch early…

So the technicians monitor what’s going on, perhaps they do some packet sniffing, work out what your computer is communicating with to let you evade the unforgiving banhammer, so they can block that and then make you a compliant Internet user. They’ll see that they can block the ports you’re using, so you simply re-assign, or they block some servers – at which point you use a bridge. Many come with the run-of-the-mill version of Tor, however you can easily add your own. They’ll think they were one head of the game but you’ll constantly be changing the game and in your favour, too.

Recently, in England, the Conservative party (more or less the British equivalent of the Republicans – a moderately right wing party) wanted for police to have more power on viewing people’s Internet usage and history, in the name of stopping ‘terrorism’ of course. Even if that was so, why does everyone’s liberty have to be breached to get a few spoilt apples from the bunch, hm? The excuse of “I have nothing to hide so I have nothing to fear.” is lame and says a lot about you as a person. You obviously don’t care about your rights or stick to your morals. Handing yourself over to them on a plate basically. Not only this, you could be criminalised for something taken out of context  – or something that was punished already, for example. Luckily, the Ministers turned this down and Theresa May has had to backtrack the plans.

Another thing I’m annoyed about is the IPAA – which seems like a ‘re-jigged’ version of the infamous SOPA we heard about years ago – which would see the death of so many intellectual and creative outlets on the Internet and champion capitalism yet again – shallow, shallow people.

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