Technology

Nonprofits Join Forces With CloudFlare to Prevent Online Censorship

In an effort to neutralize censorship of information on the internet through DDoS attacks, the company is working with a number of free-speech-minded NGOs to launch Project Galileo.

The internet is one of the world’s biggest hubs of free speech, but sometimes that freedom of speech is a challenge to come by.

In certain parts of the world, journalists and citizen advocates find themselves at risk of de facto censorship online—particularly via distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which essentially block access to content by overloading a server with traffic. An example of an organization that might be targeted would be an LGBT rights organization in Africa or the Middle East.

(The issue drew attention earlier this week when two major cloud-based companies, Feedly and Evernote, were taken down by ransom-style DDoS attacks.)

Governments or third-party actors can attack a website to censor it when they could never have done so via the courtroom.

That’s why CloudFlare, a startup that helps manage performance and security for web servers, has launched Project Galileo, a new effort intended to protect public-interest sites from such speech-muting attacks.

“CloudFlare aims to keep ideas moving,” the company states on its website. “If a website participating in Project Galileo comes under attack, CloudFlare will extend full protection to ensure the site stays online—no matter its location, no matter its content.”

Help From Nonprofits

CloudFlare is working with 14 nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups to get the project off the ground, identifying websites at risk for DDoS attacks. Among the many organizations involved are the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Engine Advocacy, Free Press, the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), the Mozilla Foundation, and the Open Technology Institute.

Several of these organizations see it as a way to ensure journalistic outlets remain protected from censorship which would never have been possible before the rise of the internet.

“Governments or third-party actors can attack a website to censor it when they could never have done so via the courtroom,” FPF Executive Director Trevor Timm told Slate‘s Dan Gillmor. “This most notably happened to WikiLeaks, but many other smaller sites have been affected at various times as well. Protecting at-risk journalists around the world from this type of extrajudicial censorship will undoubtedly be beneficial to free speech.”

Nearly 100 sites are already being protected under Project Galileo, CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince noted to Ars Technica. The Project Galileo site emphasizes that it will work to accept “any qualified vulnerable public interest web property.”

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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