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Thursday, 2 December 2010

COME CLEAN ON WEB CENSORSHIP

The Swaziland Government has denied any involvement with the banning of access to the PUDEMO internet site, despite independent expert evidence that a block has been set up.


As I reported yesterday (1 December 2010), it is impossible to access the site in Swaziland and you can’t search for PUDEMO on Google. Complete access to PUDEMO is available outside the kingdom.

Nelsiwe Shongwe, Swazi Minister of Information, Communications and Technology, denied knowing anything about the censorship.

She told the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, that the problem was a ‘glitch’ or ‘malfunction’ in the network and ‘it is still not clear why this is happening.’

If Shongwe is telling the truth then that means normal service to the PUDEMO website will be resumed almost immediately.

We shall, of course, soon find out. But PUDEMO says the access has been blocked for a week now.

However, as things stand there is reason to doubt the minister’s account.


An investigation by an independent Internet expert reveals that the PUDEMO site is being blocked by software called Packeteer PacketSharper. This is the type of software that a company might use to block its employees from accessing sites such as Facebook.


This means that someone in Swaziland has put up the block. The finger was pointed at Real Image Internet, ‘Swaziland's Leading Internet Service Provider’ , but Managing Director Ali Resting said he knows nothing about the blocking of PUDEMO’s website.


Also in the frame is Swaziland Post and Telecommunications (SPTC), the government-owned monopoly telephone landline service in Swaziland.


The expert says that the blocking of the PUDEMO site cannot be a ‘glitch’. The expert Googled ‘PUDEMO and then five random words out of the dictionary and then PUDEMO again. Obviously the “glitch” only occurred when Googling PUDEMO.


‘I also showed that if [you] went to a site that allows you to hide what you are looking for or at, you can see PUDEMO and Google it very easily - therefore it is a deliberate and successful attempt to stop Swazis from going there.’


The expert also searched for PUDEMO through the Bing, Altavista, and Yahoo search engines and also got the denial of service.


Significantly, when the expert typed ‘PUDEM Swaziland’ into the computer the spelling correction software guessed correctly and showed all the information that a PUDEMO search would have.


Someone in Swaziland, where censorship of the local media is rife, needs to come clean about this. Internet censorship is in breach of all international internet protocols and the global community needs to bring Swaziland to account.

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