Government tests tech to break through Internet censorship

FOIA documents reveal test by Broadcasting Board of Governors

The federal broadcasting board that oversees the Voice of America recently concluded a successful test of an e-mail system that potentially could circumvent Internet censorship, according to a report published by

The test report was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and was published on the Government Attic website on Jan. 31.

It is not known whether the test shows a capability that might be used to transmit news during an Internet shutdown such as is being experienced in Egypt during the civic turmoil, according to a National Journal article today.

The report indicates that the Feed Over Email (FOE) system tested by the Broadcasting Board of Governors was designed to transmit news and complement other anti-censorship tools. The test showed the system was effective in transporting data in tests carried out for from March to June last year in China.

Related story:

House bill targets Internet censorship

"The data that FOE transports can be anything from RSS feeds to normal files to proxy addresses. FOE messages are compressed and encoded so normal keyword-filtering technologies won't be able to censor FOE messages (data can also be encrypted if necessary.) The main difference between regular e-mail and FOE is that, instead of the user reading the e-mail directly, the FOE client program will decompress and decode FOE messages and present the data in meaningful ways (e.g. displaying RSS feed, downloading files/applications, providing latest proxy server addresses, etc.),” the test report document said.

Each FOE user needs to have an e-mail account outside his or her home country for the FOE system to achieve the maximum success rate.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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