Tuesday

Censoring the Internet in Yemen

So why Yemen then, is there anything that makes internet filtering in Yemen interesting?   Well yes and no, the reason I am writing this post is because there is one single fact about how the Yemen Government filter the internet that makes me laugh.  Of course I wouldn't be laughing if I was in Yemen, I'd be trying to get out to be honest!



So there's a little map of where Yemen is just to set the scene, you'll probably guess by the area that Internet and Content Filtering is actively used.  


Newspapers have been closed in the past and journalists have been arrested, interrogated and worse if they cover sensitive topics. Nope with little Freedom of Speech and a Government happy to torture and kidnap, it's not a safe place to live


Here's just a single example of a journalist who dared to speak out - Muhammad al-Maqalih , picked up on the street by some men in an unmarked van and never seen again.  Hopefully International pressure will see his release, if you want to help go to Amnesty International.


The country is not exactly a great user of the internet but it is extensively available in internet cafes for instance.  Yemen has two ISPs - YemenNet and YNet both pretty much controlled by the government (although France Telecom manage the telecommunications network for them)


So what areas are Republic of Yemen most concerned about blocking and filtering in order to protect their citizens?   Well there is a big focus on blocking pornography, yep surfing for porn in Yemen sounds pretty hard work!  Just about any website that contains sexual content is not going to get through their content filters.   They even block specific search strings - typing the word 'Sex' into Google is not going to get you any results.    Needless to say web sites with gay and lesbian content are blocked too.  Oh and don't think you can talk about it on the net either as they've blocked most of the VOIP (Voice over IP) sites like Skype.


But do you know, there is some hope for uncensored access to the Internet occasionally from Yemen and I'll tell you why. There are quite different results when you try and access the internet from Yemen, sometimes you won't get censored at all.    It is surprising because the technology they used is fairly advanced in Internet filtering terms, Blue Coat hardware appliances running WebSense. This is a content filter which is actually quite effective it will stop the use of all normal proxy servers for instance, although users of Identity Cloaker will be fine as their connections are encrypted. 


But apparently they haven't bought enough licenses so when the number of concurrent users exceeds their number of licenses then all the other users completely bypass the filtering technology !  So if you're in Yemen and you log in at the right times you'll be fine.  The eternal truth of any IT project, it might look good on paper but if it's implemented by muppets you might as well not bother, in this case it gives just a little freedom to a population who are monitored and censored. 

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