Mass. Company Helps Activists Avoid Online Government Censorship

(NECN: John Moroney) - A Massachusetts-based company helps activists avoid government censorship online.

Before the Internet was shut down in Egypt on Friday, downloads skyrocketed.

The streets of Cairo are filled with voices of dissent while more sophisticated forms of communication have been outlawed - including access to the Internet.

"It's like shutting all your air ports and all you trade ports," said Andrew Lewman. "Nothing can go in. No commerce can happen and that's probably going to anger a far larger segment of your population  than just the people who are upset at your current regime."

Lewman is with the Tor project, a Massachusetts-based group that provides free software to avoid government censorship.

The program encrypts Internet identities, bouncing them around the world before reaching their final destination. A large number of people from Egypt downloaded the software before the government pulled the plug on Internet service.

"These people are young, middle class, educated, internet oriented, internet savvy," he said.

Magid Mazzen is a Egyptian and professor at Suffolk University. He says its seems this revolution is not being driven by extremists, but rather people who understand the use of technology to achieve their goals.

"Half of the Egyptian people who were born in 1981 have not seen anyone but Murbarack as a president," he said. "But these are people who are savvy on technology and internet and stuff like that and they did not count on how savvy they are."

Tor has helped activists in Tunisa, China and Iran as well as Egypt. Not only does the software prevent tracking, it can get users around blocks on government-outlawed websites.

"If you're railing against your local government. Local government has all the power because they can just disconnect you or record what you do, or what you say - so selective disclosure becomes much more important.

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