Google have announced the launch of a government censorship tool that shows requests made by the world governments to remove websites and content. The tool also shows any freedom of information requests made for personal user data.
Google made the announcement while delivering a poignant message to the governments of the world – that freedom of opinion and expression are not liberties to be trifled with. Quoting article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Google warns of the alarming growth of censorship on the Web:
…”‘everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ Written in 1948, the principle applies aptly to today’s Internet — one of the most important means of free expression in the world. Yet government censorship of the web is growing rapidly: from the outright blocking and filtering of sites, to court orders limiting access to information and legislation forcing companies to self-censor content.”
Here at the Manchester SEO blog, we are delighted at the move, and wanted to take this opportunity to openly thank Google for their protective gaze. Recent revelations over our MPs expenses have demonstrated just how unfit our leaders are to police themselves. At the very least, this tool will prove a highly effective safeguard against further abuses of power. With the controversial passing of the UK’s Digital Economy Bill, the timing couldn’t have been better.
Above all, this message reminds us that intellect will always triumph over tyranny. I would not trust our government to decide what search results I see. But if Google stood for parliament, I would vote for them.
In this second exciting instalment in the Digital Economy Bill series, The Manchester SEO Blog Just Roger IT! will demonstrate how you can reconfigure your computer to make use of Google’s own DNS system. I will also explain why this might provide another valuable tool to add to your Swiss Army Knife of tactics that will subvert any level of control the UK government might attempt to impose upon the Internet itself.
What is DNS (Domain Name System)?
Basically, DNS is a giant Internet phonebook – every time you access a website using a domain name, your computer resolves that name into the IP address of the machine that will serve out your desired website. For example, this website www.manchester-seo-blog.co.uk is hosted on the machine with the IP address 18.104.22.168. Although the reality is more complex, this is essentially why DNS is an important part of being able to access a website.
Google’s DNS and Blockages
DNS may become important if our government tries to block ‘undersirable’ websites that may have found their way on to Santa’s naughty list. One possible block the government may attempt to use, would be to do something to the DNS itself. While the machine itself may be reachable from yours, the website will become – in effect – ex-directory and you will therefore not be able to connect to the website through the domain.
A few months ago, Google began offering a free and fast DNS service, and with some minor reconfiguration of your computer, you can use Google’s DNS instead of your ISP’s own. Because Google operate this service from the United States, the UK government will be unable to stop your machine using this service.
How To Configure Your System
Configuring Google’s DNS for Windows XP
To add Google’s DNS servers to your Internet configuration, simply follow these steps:
- Click Start, then Control Panel and from here double click Network Connections
- Right click on the network connection you use and click Properties.
- From this dialog box, highlight the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) option and cilck Properties
- Next, simply click the radio button: ‘Use the following DNS server addresses:‘ and enter Google’s DNS servers 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199
Right click on the network connection you use and click Properties.
Configuring Google’s DNS for Windows 7
- Click Start, then Control Panel and from here click Network and Internet
- From this control panel, click Network Center and then click the Personalize link.
- From this dialog box, highlight the Internet connection your computer uses, then cilck the Properties button.
- Click the Properties button in this next dialog box (you may need to provide admin password at this point)
- Highlight the TCP/IP Version 4 option and click ‘Properties‘ and in the next dialog box, click: ‘Use the following DNS addresses‘ and enter 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206..
Okay, by now you should be all done! Click OK and apply all of those settings. Google’s DNS System is so awesome that you may well improve the speed and responsiveness of your Internet as a by-product. The important thing is that nobody within the UK would be able to stop you, and should the government attempt to block domains using some DNS tricks, this would provide a neat way around it!
This week saw the UK government’s Digital Economy Bill sneak past the Houses of Parliament and Lords. Here at Just Roger IT : The Manchester SEO Blog, we believe that freedom should rank highest among our life priorities. It is too easy for us to take our liberty for granted, and willingly surrender a small slice of it to appease a hungry wolf. But the wolf will always return for seconds. They can do nothing without the co-operation of the I.T. world, and in the meantime until the world comes to its senses, I feel duty bound to place more power in the hands of Internet users to help address this terrible injustice.
What Is a Proxy and How Does It Work?
Using a proxy to access the Internet simply involves routing your Internet requests through a third party computer. Let’s suppose website X is on the ‘verboten list‘ of restricted sites by the UK government. You can reconfigure your computer A to request site X from proxy computer B as pictured above. To the outside world, it will seem as though computer B is accessing the restricted websites, with no way of preventing computer B completing this request on behalf of A, if B lies outside of the UK. Digital freedom fighters across the globe specialise in setting up proxies that are available for countries that do not have the same freedoms we enjoy in the West. Entire lists of public, free and open proxies are maintained and a simple Google search for ‘public proxies’ (or something similar!) will quickly reveal a list of proxy companions for your computer.
Your mileage will vary, and a user will need to be patient as new proxies are appearing every minute, while some may only exist for a few short hours before slowing, and finally going offline altogether. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!
Using a Proxy
Some proxies will have their own domain, complete with a nice web based interface such as hidemyass.com and the-cloak.com, which are usually easy to use and need little or no explanation. In a desperate attempt to enforce this ridiculous bill, I predict the UK government may move to block access to these domains from within the UK. Even so, you still have access to the slightly more gritty proxies which are accessible by their IP address and socket number. Using these is equally straight forward, but requires a little reconfiguring of your browser!
Configuring an HTTP Proxy for Internet Explorer and Firefox
As these are the two more common browsers, I will discuss the step-by-step how to, once you have your chosen proxies IP address and socket number. Okay, so in these examples, I will be using the following proxy example:
An Example Proxy Based in Thailand
[IP address] : [socket number]
Configuring Proxy Settings of Internet Explorer
Using Internet Explorer you can click, Tools » Internet Options » Connections » LAN Settings. Then in the space at the bottom of this dialogue box tick the ‘Use a proxy server for your LAN’ and enter the IP address and socket number of your chosen proxy and click OK, then Apply.
Configuring Proxy Settings of Firefox
Firefox is very slightly different, but follows the same process. Click on: Tools » Options, then click on the Advanced icon to the far right of the top menu. Select the Network tab and click the Settings button under ‘Connection’ and enter your proxy settings here.
When you apply these settings you can browse normally, and your browser will automatically route all requests through the third party machine.
It may be hit and miss for a while, but this technique ensures that no single government can hold their people’s intellect, creativity or freedom of expression hostage.
Six months ago, I blocked Russia and China from all my personal web servers. My friends said this was a bad idea – not only for search engine optimistion (SEO) purposes, but also claimed I had managed to create a ‘racist server’! I was not proud of this decision, which was made after careful observation that the majority of all hack attacks, brute force ftp attacks, spoofs and intrusion attempts came from Chinese machines and IP addresses. Taking this action has cut my monitoring and maintenance times to less than a tenth of what they were and relieved much of the strain on my computers.
Due to the scale of these operations, I had become certain that this was more than a band of geeks doing their thing. Such elaborate hacks with seemingly limitless resources suggested someone was systematically providing them these resources, intelligence and a safe haven for their activities without fear of prosecution.
Google Hack Targeted Human Rights Activists
Until now, these have been paranoid thoughts I have been kept locked away in my own mind. But today, this all changed when Google announced a recent ’sophisticated’ GMail attack on their servers from China. They claim to have uncovered evidence that the goal of the attack was to access the private GMail accounts of Chinese human rights activists which have long been a thorn in the side of the Chinese government. This suggests that my worst suspicions may not be far from the truth, raising broader questions about free speech which Google cover in today’s announcement.
The purpose of the Internet that Tim Berners-Lee envisaged was – of course – about bringing people together. But people invariably bring ideas with them, and many of these ideas do not agree. Geographical distance provided a convenient partition space for these ideas to co-exist, but these partitions dissapear on the Internet.
A Pivotal Moment for the Internet
I believe this recent clash between Google and China will mark a pivotal moment for the Internet itself. From a political standpoint, we will see the cooling of already chilly relationships to all-new sub-zero temperatures. Google’s next move will leave a lasting imprint on the history of the Internet itself. In today’s official post, Google reminded China that they were not happy censoring results in the country – a move designed to appease the Chinese government some time ago. They went on to say they will revisit this decision, and the broader idea of all their operations in China:
These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China
Google’s message could not be clearer – they are considering withdrawing from China altogether. I hope this is not the case, as this is not allowing the humans to resolve their differences, but avoiding the question altogether. Any webmasters who are interested in being able to block an entire country such as China should visit Okean.com, which gives the .htaccess rules for Apache. This will obviously not protect your other services though! I will certainly be watching Google’s next move with baited breath.