Snow falling from the sky
"Snowing Background" from publicdomainpictures.net by Petr Kratochvil

Help keep the internet open for users in Iran (and for anyone where it's censored)

There are brave people in the streets around Iran following the death of Mahsa (Jina) Amini, an Iranian Kurdish woman, while being held by the "morality police" over a supposed offence of not wearing a hijab in the correct way. Typical to the regime's violent response to the protests, it is also ramping up its already aggressive online censorship. I'm dropping a couple of things here that someone with a computer or internet server can do to help people in the country maintain access to secure digital communication tools and both access or publish information online.

Help maintain access to the Tor Network

Difficulty level: Easy.

If you use either the Chrome or Firefox Browser, you can quickly set up and run Snowflake. This helps create Tor relays for users of The Tor Browser, creating faster more useable access. The Tor Network helps defeat censorship by bouncing traffic through servers in a way that evades blocking and also helps improve a user's ability to protect their privacy and stay anonymous, and more secure online. There are a number of ways to set up Tor relays, but Snowflake is pretty easy.

  • You can get it for Firexfox here.
  • You can get it for Chrome here.
  • Or, you can just leave this page open in a tab on your web browser, turn on the widget at the bottom of this post, and just let it run.

Snowflake is super easy, and low-bandwidth. You're computer is supporting relay nodes, not exit traffic, and there is no connection to you or the users on the Tor Network or what they do. You do get a nifty statistic to see how many users you're browser plugin has helped in the last 24 hours. So far today (as of this writing), mine has helped 18 people reach some destination over Tor.

If you feel like geeking out, have some system administration skills, and want to do something more involved, you can run a server with it's own stand-alone Snowflake instance, or run a Tor relay server.

Run a Signal proxy

Difficulty level: Medium.

The Iranian government is blocking connections to Signal servers. Signal is a secure, end-to-end communications app used by journalists, activists, political figures, and maybe your mom. It has a number of privacy supporting features aside from the encryption, such as disappearing messages. You should use it. You should help people where it's blocked use it, too. Signal has create an open source proxy server set up, that helps create bridges that bypass the blockade. 

for this one, you should be comfortable in the command line, and be able to run an always-on internet server, though it can be a pretty small one. Here's more on how to run one.


Run Snowflake in your browser

Turn this on, and leave this tab open in your browser, and it will help users on the Tor Browser get more relay bridges to access the web and bypass censorship.