Renegade group testing software to break Internet bans

Published December 7th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

An international band of programmers is about to release software that will bypass World Wide Web restrictions imposed by various countries, including China, Cuba and Iran. The programmers, who call themselves "The Cult of the Dead Cow," are a 16-year-old international group of anonymous "hackers" — so named because of their expertise in breaking into computer networks. 


The technology will work much like Napster, the software that allows users to pass digital music files among themselves via the Internet, bypassing mainframe computers. According to "Oxblood Ruffin" — a pseudonym for one of the group's founders — the as-yet untitled software will allow users to bypass local servers that block access to certain Internet sites.  


Cindy Cohn, an attorney with San Francisco's Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet free speech organization, said the software will help break through government censorship. "Governments are, more and more, blocking access to the Internet to guard against information that's critical of them or offensive to the culture," said Cohn. "Tools like this can counteract that trend." 


Since 1996, the Chinese government has banned access to some 100 websites, ranging from those carrying outside news reports to sexually explicit pictures. Cuba, Iran and other countries also limit access to various websites they deem inappropriate to their citizens. 


Ruffin said the program is small enough to be stored on a single floppy disc, and will be distributed by human rights organizations. "We're not doing anything illegal," said Ruffin, who cites the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a 1948 UN declaration urging access to information, among other rights, as his motivation for creating the software. Ruffin said the program should be available by March after final testing. — (AFP, San Francisco) 


© Agence France Presse 2000

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