Breaking digital firewalls : analyzing internet censorship and circumvention in the arab world

Sammanfattning: This dissertation explores the role of Internet censorship and circumvention in the Arab world as well as Arabs’ views on the limits to free speech on the Internet.The project involves the creation of an Internet censorship circumvention tool named Alkasir that allows users to report and access certain types of censored websites. The study covers the Arab world at large with special focus on Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.This work is of interdisciplinary nature and draws on the disciplines of media and communication studies and computer science. It uses a pioneering experimental approach by placing Alkasir in the hands of willing users who automatically feed a server with data about usage patterns without storing any of their personal information.In addition to the analysis of Alkasir usage data, Web surveys were used to learn about any technical and nontechnical Internet censorship practices that Arab users and content producers may have been exposed to. The study also aims at learning about users’ experiences with circumvention tools and how such tools could be improved.The study found that users have successfully reported and accessed hundreds of censored social networking, news, dissident, multimedia and other websites. The survey results show that while most Arab informants disapprove censoring online anti-government political content, the majority support the censoring of other types of content such as pornography, hate speech, and anti-religion material.Most informants indicated that circumvention tools should be free of charge, fast and reliable. An increase in awareness among survey respondents of the need for privacy and anonymity features in circumvention solutions was observed.