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Ethiopian government blocks Tor Network online anonymity

Warwick Ashford

The Ethiopian government is blocking access to the Tor Network that enables online anonymity, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Tor client software routes internet traffic through a worldwide volunteer network of servers to conceal a user's location or usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis.

The introduction of systems to block Tor access is the latest attempt by Ethiopian authorities to cut access to internet communication channels.

Reporters Without Borders – the France-based non-governmental organisation that advocates freedom of information – said the only ISP in the country, state-owned Ethio-Telecom, must be using deep-packet inspection (DPI)

DPI is an advanced network filtering method, widely used by autocracies such as in China and Iran.

Blocking access to porn sites is usually the official reason given for installing and using DPI. 

But in practice it allows governments to easily target politically sensitive websites and quickly censor any expression of opposition views, Reporters Without Borders said on its website.

Unconfirmed local reports claimed that Ethiopians, who are increasingly turning to new communication technologies, face up to 15 years in jail if they use Skype or similar internet call services and up to eight years in jail for using banned social media sites, according to the BBC.

Reporters Without Borders said the Ethiopian government is trying to attack every means of information exchange.

The Internet Society, an international organisation which promotes equal access to the net, has also raised concerns about the restrictions on the internet being imposed by the Ethiopian authorities.

Reporters Without Borders said it was worried the latest effort to block access to Tor might be the first step towards creating a system that would allow the authorities to intercept any e-mail, social network post or internet telephony call made in the country.

In the UK, campaigners have slammed the government’s draft proposals to for its Communications Data Bill, which will make it easier for security and police services to spy on e-mails, phone calls and internet activity.

The government wants service providers to store the details of internet use in the UK for a year, with costs of up to £2.5bn over ten years to taxpayers.

The bill, published in draft on 14 June, will now be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a joint committee of Parliament, but has been widely criticised as an assault on civil liberties.


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