The Signal application, developed by Open Whisper Systems, wants to prevent censorship and allow for secure end-to-end encrypted communication all over the world. This project has been greeted with a lot of enthusiasm of late, but it looks like some countries are already blocking access to Signal. (Egypt is one of those countries confirmed to censor access.) The team will be addressing these problems over the coming months.
Signal Steps Up Censorship Circumvention
Censorship and other forms of restricting freedom of speech are not that uncommon in many countries around the world. Notably the countries suffering from political turmoil are ones in which governments often restrict access to communication platforms that allow free speech to take place. Turkey, for example, recently blocked Twitter and other social networks.
Circumventing these artificial blockades is not easy, although the Signal platform aims to allow free speech at any given time. This project offers end-to-end encrypted messaging services to its users all over the world. In fact, they pride themselves upon not suffering from government intervention and keeping data safe from prying eyes.
But just under two weeks ago, the Signal developers noted something very strange. Access to the platform was being censored in Egypt, as the government somehow found a way not to let users access the service. It remains unclear how this is possible to begin with, but it is evident that a solution has to be found quickly.
Open Whisper Systems announced that they will be deploying censorship circumvention in Signal over the coming weeks. For the time being, users in Egypt, as well as other countries where access to the service is limited, can access Signal through Tor or a VPN connection. Providing alternatives to these services is a smart decision by the Signal developers.
We'll begin deploying censorship circumvention in Signal over the next several weeks. Until then, Tor or a VPN can be used to access Signal.
— Open Whisper Systems (@whispersystems) December 19, 2016
For the time being, it remains uncertain how Open Whisper Systems will try to introduce their censorship-circumventing measures. It is sad to see governments block such a service in their quest to oppress free speech. Doing so will only lead to more turmoil and disgruntled citizens over time, and is never the right course of action.
It is good to see technology companies address censorship issues themselves, and do everything they can to ensure it can’t happen in the future. Censorship should be opposed at every possible turn, as everyone should have the right to speak his or her mind freely. Technology can help us achieve freedom of speech, even though there are those who use the same technology to ensure that people’s opinions are oppressed at all times.
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