| BOSTON/SAN FRANCISCO
BOSTON/SAN FRANCISCO Feb 11 Iran's government
has stepped up efforts to censor the Internet, blocking access
to popular sites, according to the U.S. State Department.
Google Inc (GOOG.O) has identified itself as one of the
companies whose site has been blocked. The company has also
faced off with China recently over Web censorship.
Q. How could Iran block access to specific websites?
A. All Internet traffic in Iran, and many other countries
including China, is inspected by government-controlled
computers programmed that filter content.
Officials can easily program those filters so that
computers in those countries cannot access certain Web pages,
such as Google.com, or use specific programs, such as eBay
Inc's (EBAY.O) Skype, Twitter, or Activision Blizzard Inc's
(ATVI.O) World of Warcraft online video game.
Countries also often choose to block entire websites
because that is easier than trying to pinpoint objectionable
An example is China's Web filters, which block sites deemed
illegal or politically offensive in that country. Google
censors its search results so it does not run afoul of those
Q. Why is Iran blocking Google's Web email -- Gmail --
No one knows for sure, but Danny O'Brien, an international
outreach coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
said that after Google said its popular Web email service had
been attacked by Chinese hackers, the company began encrypting,
or protecting, all of its email messages and chats. This makes
monitoring more difficult.
Q. Do the United States and European governments filter Web
pages for people in their countries?
A. About a third of the world's citizens use the Internet
through filters imposed by their local governments, including
many schools and libraries in the United States, according to
Susan Crawford, a professor of law at the University of
But the scale and type of blocking software is the key,
because there are effectively two types of filters: software on
a person's computer and filters imposed on a network.
Filtering software is often installed by parents to keep
their kids from stumbling across objectionable websites, and
many companies throughout the world filter their connections in
order to keep employees on task.
Q. Is it possible to get around those filters?
A. Yes. There are several ways around the filters, some of
which require the user to have some technical knowledge.
One of the easiest to use is a program for personal
computers called Tor (www.torproject.org). This program
encrypts Internet traffic, effectively hiding it from filtering
Not all of these programs work all the time, and they
cannot circumvent all filtering techniques.
(Reporting by Ian Sherr and Jim Finkle; Editing by Richard