U.S. Tests System to Break Foreign Web Censorship

A new system currently being tested by the U.S. government would allow Internet users to read emails with embedded RSS feeds that skirt censorship. From Reuters:

The “feed over email” (FOE) system delivers news, podcasts and data via technology that evades web-screening protocols of restrictive regimes, said Ken Berman, head of IT at the U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is testing the system.

The news feeds are sent through email accounts including those operated by Google Inc, Microsoft Corp’s Hotmail and Yahoo Inc.

“We have people testing it in China and Iran,” said Berman, whose agency runs Voice of America. He provided few details on the new system, which is in the early stages of testing. He said some secrecy was important to avoid detection by the two governments.

See an explanation of FOE from Google. The Telegraph explains more about how it works:

Internet users in China or Iran would need to open an email account with a company based outside of their own country, such as Yahoo! and Google’s Gmail, to overcome one of the first initial censorship hurdles. That would then allow them to use their email as what Ho calls a “proxy-less RSS reader”.

In other words users could be sent a specially formatted email containing feeds from external news outlets. It would be similar to sending an email with HTML code in it, says Ho, and could prove to be the ideal workaround.

The user would decide what news feeds they want to receive, and when the Feed over Email server receives their request, it would be able to email those feeds back to the user’s email address and display the feeds on the user’s screen, without them needing to retrieve those articles from the internet.

Ho says that although the process sounds complicated, the system is actually relatively easy to use, and the RSS feeds can be quickly erased if the user comes under scrutiny from the authorities.

Even the official China Daily is reporting this news.

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