Freedom Fight


Some have suggested that advocating freedom of speech and assembly can be achieved by using special tools, web proxy servers, and more. Below is a short list of these "freedom tools," which by no means exhaustive, can empower individuals to access information, banned or blocked. Take it as a list to ban, or a list you can use to model appropriate use of Internet resources. If the Internet is likened to a sea of information, then it would be prudent for those of us on the beach to teach our children how to adjust to a world suffering from the fall-out Freedom's spread.

1) TOR - http://tor.eff.org
In the K-12 education setting (or oppressive government), Tor presents serious problems. It allows one to bypass filters that prevent one from using Instant Messaging services, accessing prohibited web sites (e.g. Google Images because if you type the word "nekked" you get inappropriate search results), and others...of course, teachers who can't install anything on their computers may find themelves without even this option. TOR is a technology that encrypts and routes your Internet traffic through a number of TOR servers before the traffic reaches its destination. It works on Mac, Windows, and Linux with equal ease. While their web site can be banned, I do not know of any way that it's use can be traced to one computer and it continues to work even when blocked by content filters. There are uses outside of school districts, though. For example, if you're using a hotel's in-house network or a public wireless network, you could use TOR and Privoxy to help protect your network traffic. This might make purchasing a private VPN service unnecessary. Tor allows you to set up your own proxy on your computer ( read Windows setup tutorial). After you've installed TOR--and if you use Firefox--there's a plug-in you can use to turn TOR on. The plug-in or extension also works with Mozilla Thunderbird.
It gives you a button in the bottom right hand corner of your Firefox browser that enables you to enable Privoxy or disable it. (No wonder that Firefox is banned, while Internet Explorer is set as the standard). It's as easy as clicking it on or off. For some reason, this picture reminds me of a polyp, a legacy from avid reading at the doctor's office, so, I prefer the text version which simply displays, "Tor Enabled" or "Tor Disabled."
For those of you feeling adventurous, you can even download and burn your own LiveCD. The LiveCD allows you to do all your surfing anonymously. Two LiveCDs are available, including Phantomix and ELE. Phantomix is described as

...a Knoppix based Operating System (Linux) running on a CD drive without using the hard drive. It is configured to use the Tor and Privoxy software for anonymous internet communication. Using Tor can help you anonymize web browsing and publishing, instant messaging, IRC, SSH, and other applications for your safety and security.
Source: Phantomix LiveCD
Or, you could try ELE LiveCD, which would probably run on older machines since it's based on a small Linux distribution. It only takes up 61 megs and could conceivably run off a USB Flash Drive/Pendrive. You can "burn" the ISO files provided using free Windows software (e.g. BurnCDCC).

2) Psiphon - http://psiphon.civisec.org/
A product released to thwart censoring governments and regimes--and from students' perspective, school districts fall into this description--is now available (release date of 12/01/2006). According to a BBC news article, Psiphon works through social networks.

A net user in an uncensored country can download the program to their computer, which transforms it into an access point. They can then give contacts in censored countries a unique web address, login and password, which enables the restricted users to freely browse the web through an encrypted connection to the proxy server.

If students in "censored schools" are unable to modify proxy settings on their browser, the Psiphon proxy might be inaccessible. In some districts, however, older machines predominate in schools. As such, these machines are not protected by policies or implementations of Active Directory...and students can modify the proxy settings on a browser. If newer machines are used, controlled by Active Directory, then students would be unable to modify proxy settings.
Of course, simply rebooting to a Live CD or USB Flash drive with an operating system and browser/instant messaging software takes care of that angle. Another point to consider is that if students start bringing their own equipment to school, then they could easily connect to the school network via cable or wireless and bypass school filters.


3) Use Google News to bypass banning of blocked search results.
http://www.google.com/news
Doing a search for "myspace" in Google News will get you:
http://www.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&q=myspace&btnG=Search+News

4) Use Feedburner.com or other aggregating service (e.g. SuprGlu). If that approach didn't work, try this one. Set up a free account, and use Google's Search Results to RSS. This will result in all search results flowing through FeedBurner. When you need different results, you edit the feed. This means students can access search results based on the exact same feed that a teacher may have created for them.
For example, the results of a Google search on the word "space" would be banned because "MySpace" would appear in the results. Instead, you modify the following SearchResults to RSS feed to reflect the search term.
RSS Feed Content: http://news.google.com/news?q=space&output=rss
And, then results would appear in a Feedburner search.
5) Use Google Mobile Search: Alternately, you can also try these searches. You can surf web sites using the following:
http://www.google.com/xhtml
There are other approaches, but these are four that bypass the access control list of banned words, or with Tor, find a way around all content filtering.

5) SchoolBoredom.com - SchoolBoredom.com
This is an interesting web site students can point their browsers to, and then access MySpace.com, etc. I haven't had a chance to try it out but I'm wondering if a simple word ban would block it successfully. What do you think?

6) Kproxy.com - http://www.kproxy.com
Here's another site similar to SchoolBoredom.com. You can go to the web site and type in whatever address you want to access, and off you go!

CONCLUSION
We are quickly transitioning to a reality where schools will be unable to keep up with Read/Write Web by simple blocking. As school districts, are we caught in reactive mode to social computing? This movement is powerful because it taps into something Americans knew long ago and may have forgotten--Freedom is intoxicating and self-restraint must be modeled, not simply described. We must put the lightning back in Liberty's Torch, or risk being zapped or extinguished. Either way, we'll hear the thunder.