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Global broadcasters need strategies to combat Internet censorship

New U of T report advocates for country-specific planning

Reading news on the Internet, something Canadians take for granted, isn't so easy in China and Iran. (photo by Caz Zyvatkauskas)

Broadcasters seeking to deliver online news to countries where blocking is widespread must be prepared to create strategies tailored to those countries, says a new report from the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

The research leading to this conclusion is detailed in a newly released report, Casting a Wider Net: Lessons Learned in Delivering BBC Content on the Censored Internet. The report examines the cat and mouse game of Internet censorship evasion and demonstrates what works, what doesn’t and why.

“Casting a Wider Net shows that bypassing Internet censorship to deliver news content in restrictive communications environments involves far more than just supplying circumvention tools,”  said Ron Deibert, director of the centre and the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, a group that has designed effective circumvention tools. “Broadcasters need to devise a strategy for distributing content over the Internet with an understanding of the different challenges they will face in each of the target countries they are trying to reach.”

This conclusion is the result of work done by Karl Kathuria, the centre’s Visiting Fellow in Global Media, and a research team which analysed Internet news traffic in China and Iran.  They reviewed two years’ worth of traffic data from the BBC’s web content services, examined in-field testing data from an OpenNet Initiative study of Iranian and Chinese Internet censorship and Psiphon Inc.’s circumvention service delivery.

“This project presented us with a unique opportunity to study online distribution in areas where blocking is prevalent, and to consider what is needed for organizations that want to deliver online news on a global scale,” said Kathuria. “The recommendations from the report will lead broadcasters into this new delivery environment, helping them to formulate distribution strategies and get closer to their waiting audiences.”