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[liberationtech] Paper: Internet censorship circumvention technology use in human rights organizations

ilf ilf at
Fri Oct 19 03:46:58 PDT 2012

Carleen F Maitland, Herschel F Thomas and Louis-Marie Ngamassi Tchouakeu

Journal of Information Technology, (16 October 2012)

# Abstract

Using an organizational informatics approach, this study explores the 
implications of human rights organizations’ use of censorship 
circumvention technologies. Through qualitative analyses of data 
collected through in-depth interviews, the research examines the factors 
influencing the use of circumvention technologies and the organizational 
effects of their use. The outcomes include a revised model of censorship 
circumvention technology use as well as a new model situating human 
rights organizations and their audiences in bidirectional information 
flows. The research provides recommendations for practice as well as 
insight for organizational informatics and information systems security 
research in the areas of protective technologies, awareness, detection, 
and physical security.

# From the Conclusion

Despite having information dissemination as a primary mission and 
recognizing their websites are likely being blocked, this research 
finds, contrary to our expectations, use of these technologies is not 
widespread. Only two of the seven organizations employed server-side 
technologies to enhance access to their websites, while a little over 
half employed client-side technologies. Factors explaining these 
findings include the audience and importance of Internet censorship to 
the organization, as well as resource limitations. The study results in 
two models, which can serve as the basis for future research, one 
specifying variables to explain circumvention technology adoption and 
use and a second that depicts the factors influencing human rights 
organizations’ information flows.

As an indicator of the impact of censorship, this research finds 
organizations are struggling to systematically detect and thwart website 
blocking. In one case the censorship has led an organization to abandon 
the web altogether and in another censorship influenced an 
organization’s countries of operation. Given the limited resources of 
human rights organizations, client-side circumvention technologies 
appear to have lower barriers to adoption, providing what is likely a 
more effective means of circumvention. 


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