Google has unveiled two new services to confront online censorship and promote free expression. Project Shield has already been effective in combating DDos attacks while uProxy aims to protect Internet connections from surveillance or misdirection.
These initiatives were presented at a summit organized by Google Ideas in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations and the Gen Next Foundation on the topic of Conflict in Connected World that involved hacktivists, digital security experts, investigative journalists, government officials, and developers.
One premise expressed in the event's video by Hugo Landa, Executive Director of Cubanet, a website dedicated to promoting a free press in Cuba, is:
Today access to the Internet equals freedom of expression and should be considered a basic human right.
The video also presents evidence from Thailand, Syria and Iran to make the case that information technologies have transformed conflict and that access to the free flow of information is increasingly critical.
Google isn't just talking about what could be done to combat censorship. It already has galvanized its resources to take action against distributed denial of service attacks with Project Shield, a service that combines Google PageSpeed Service with its DDos mitigation technologies to enable websites to continue to serve content despite organized opposition.
In this video, which opens by explaining how DDos attacks can be so effective, Syrian activist Dlshad Othman, founder of Uvirtus OS, a website that provides early-warning of scud missile attacks, explains how it was brought down by a ddos attack and contacted Google Ideas for help. Mehedi Yahyanejad, of the Persian-language social media site Balataris then reports how Project Shield has enabled his site to keep going under pressure.
Project Shield has so far helped a limited number of vulnerable website and now webmasters serving independent news, human rights, and elections-related content to being invited to apply to join the next round of beta testing.
In a related initiative Digital Attack Map built through a collaboration between Google Ideas and Arbor Networks provides is a live data visualization of DDoS attacks around the globe showing where outages are occurring and, in some cases where they originate. It also let users explore historic trends.
(click to open full Digital Attack Map in new window)
The final element of the package, uProxy, is funded by Google but developed by the University of Washington and nonprofit group Brave New Software. The idea is to provide users in countries like China, where Internet access is routinely blocked or restricted, to experience it in the same way as someone living in an uncensored country.
Currently under development in restricted beta,uProxy creates an encrypted connection between two users in a way that resembles a virtual private network and so enables friends to provide each other with a trusted pathway to the web, as explained in this video: