How could our communities further advance website operators ability to “unblock” censored content?

Five years ago, OTF supported OpenITP and Upturn research to better understand common domestic circumvention techniques used in China. Upturn’s research identified the Collateral Freedom dynamic as a leading means of circumventing censorship amongst the 1,175 Chinese Internet users asked, along with specific technologies leveraging global infrastructure “too important to block” censorship. In the time since, a growing community of academics and software developers have discovered, evolved, and proliferated multiple related techniques, notably Domain Fronting, with multiple tools making use of this strategy:

Today, commercial VPN providers widely make use of domain fronting and other pluggable transports as a method to circumvent targeted blocking of their services. More, the list of CDN and cloud providers capable of being leveraged continues to grow and multiple tools now ship with multiple Collateral Freedom-esque techniques built-in including proxy/VPN tools.

Within the Tor ecosystem, we have seen the Enterprise Onion Toolkit (EOTK) remove many technical barriers for existing website operators to deploy an .onion service/address. Immediately following, a number of businesses began offering services making it even easier for website operators. In light of this, the environment appears ripe for an open source Enterprise Domain Fronting Toolkit with a service offering built on top.

A mature well-built equivalent domain fronting option could be of great utility to small to medium sized websites needing a quick and accessible anti-censorship fix. This has the potential to remove much of the pre-requisite technical skills to create a domain fronted version of a website that also provides a bespoke branded browser extension.

What technological vehicles are best placed to maximize impact? Do they already exist? To what extent could a standalone browser extension accomplish this? What additional solutions could be made available for those censored in contrast to solutions for those seeking censored content?

Most efforts to date are not Web 3.0 solutions built upon decentralized services. More recently, we have seen the leveraging of popular public blockchains as directory services for clients to discover new unblocked mirror websites on Web 2.0 platforms and others using blockchains as a directory service for content on decentralized file storage services. To what extent should these technologies be relied on in creating new solutions?

If you are beginning to create these new services and solutions, applying to OTF is an always good option and the best way for us to learn more about your effort and for you to potentially receive support. If you have already created a similar or related solution, we hope to soon release a request for partners, our way of providing support to those services to in turn make sure the service is available and accessible to those most in need. If that sounds more like your effort, please share here.

Aside, posting more of our thoughts like this here is one of the experiments we are testing to share more of what we see or do not see back out to the communities we engage with. Another example is the recent request for partners, where one outcome will publicly available data exposing notable trends from the submissions we receive. You do not have to wait for us to generate the topics. If you would like us to consider sharing on a specific thought, please post your request and current thinking in this category.

And thanks in advance for sharing. We look forward to learning more in the subsequent comments and discussions! <3 :slight_smile:

There have? What businesses?

It seems likely that SNI Encryption will be the biggest thing in Domain Fronting since… Domain Fronting came about. If you get CDNs to support and eploy this, and browsers to ship it by default in a too-big-to-block manner, you’ve effectively Domain Fronted a huge percentage of the Internet.

Let me clarify that the New York Times app is a standalone Android app with built-in circumvention (collateral freedom / domain fronting), and is not a browser extension. GreatFire’s main project is FreeBrowser, also Android-based and also with circumvention built-in, but allowing users to browse any content. Our banned book app, FreeBooks, also has built-in circumvention.

Services that are actually delivered as browser extensions have little impact in China since all Google services including the “Chrome web store” are blocked (and Google itself does not use collateral freedom to unblock these services). Firefox is available but has very few users in China. For a browser extension approach to be useful in China, both the browser itself and the extension has to be distributed (and kept updated).

Greatfire (Chinese NYT Chrome browser extension) this link is dead