Our Middle East Voices social journalism site has been available online since November 11, but we have noticed that we have only a trickle of visits from the country of Syria, according to our site analytics data. We found this to be odd because our sister site VOANews.com consistently gets sizable traffic from the country.
This leads us to one of two conclusions. Either Middle East Voices receives very little Syrian traffic because we are a startup and it just hasn’t registered… we doubt this is the case because we have been in contact with Syrians incessantly since the uprising and crackdown began… or our site is being blocked in Syria. Several journalism outlets have reported on the Syrian government’s use of software to block sites and how others try to circumvent it. Wired Magazine online has a great article on how American Internet technology is being used by forces on both sides of the revolution.
We are doing our best to report on the events in Syria in a balanced way through social media, given the restrictions on journalists operating in the country. We also believe access to information on any website, not just our own, should be free.
Therefore, here is a limited list of resources you can use to circumvent Internet blocking software in Syria or any other country to reach our site or others. We will be updating this list with more circumvention tips in coming days.
Websites for Proxy Surfing
If you want quick and dirty access to a site’s content, you can use a proxy site to do so. Go to this website CheckIP.org. If the map indicates approximately where you are currently, then your location and any website you visit can be tracked by others. The sites below are helpful in quickly accessing any website which may be blocked in your country or institution – without downloading software on your machine:
List of 91 other proxy websites in case those above are blocked (compiled by blogger Hongkiat)
If you type your destination URL – say a blocked site – at one of the proxy sites above, you should be able to access it because you have just fooled would-be spies that you are somewhere else. Use CheckIP.org again after using a proxy site above. If the map indicates you are in a different country, then your IP address is masked and you should be able to access most blocked sites.
If you are hoping to do more than just quickly surf a site and use the Internet outside of a browser, you might want to download software that will hide your IP address for most of your internet activities. Consider:
E-mail communication is tricky now, especially on mobile phones in closed societies. We do NOT recommend using the native e-mail client on your iPhone or Android-powered mobile device.
If you would like to reach out to us via e-mail or other sites through your PC, we recommend using a web-based e-mail service that supports HTTPS or https secure protocol. Gmail has now made HTTPS the default setting for sending e-mail through a browser. This makes it difficult for others to access the information in your data packets or decipher the hidden code in any e-mail, which may include your IP address. Bottom line – we recommend using Gmail through a browser for secure communication.
If you are on a smart mobile phone, try downloading Safe Gmail for iPhone, which is essentially an HTTPS browser app. If you are on an Android-powered phone, go ahead and download the Gmail app from the Android market. Use these instead of your phone manufacturer’s native email client.
We understand that activists and journalists are always at risk and we want to offer tips to protect you and so that you may communicate freely.
The above tips are NOT comprehensive. Please Google your phone model and e-mail clients that you use to find the most secure solution for you and your activities.
List your own home-grown Internet circumvention tips in our comments below. Help citizens get free access to information.
Middle East Voices is a unique social journalism project powered by Voice of America. Our site is designed to present balanced, high-quality journalism and at the same time stimulate dialogue and understanding between people in the Middle East and the West. On our platform you will find in-depth articles, captivating essays and engaging videos on pressing political, economic, religious and social issues reshaping our world.