from the ██████████ dept.
A browser extension that acted as an anti-censorship tool for 185,000 people has been kicked out of the Chrome store by Google. The open source Ahoy! tool facilitated access to more than 1,700 blocked sites but is now under threat. Despite several requests, Google has provided no reason for its decision.
Last December, TF reported on SitesBloqueados (Blocked Sites) a web portal run by Revolução dos Bytes (Bytes' Revolution), a group of anti-censorship activists in Portugal.
Internet censorship is common in the country, with more than 1,700 sites banned from regular Internet access for reasons ranging from copyright to gambling. The process does not require intervention from the courts so Revolução dos Bytes decided to keep an eye on things with its Ahoy! Chrome and Firefox extension.
"Ahoy! basically bypasses any traffic to a blocked site through our own proxies, allowing the users to navigate in a free, uncensored internet," team member Henrique Mouta previously told TF.
Not only is Ahoy! able to unblock sites, it can also detect newly blocked domains and feed information back, so that its unblocking abilities are always up to date.
Things had been going well. After servicing 100,000 users last December, Ahoy! grew to almost 185,000 users this year. However, progress and indeed the project itself is now under threat after arbitrary action by Google.
"Google decided to remove us from Chrome's Web Store without any justification", Henrique informs TF.
"We always make sure our code is high quality, secure and 100% free (as in beer and as in freedom). All the source code is open source. And we're pretty sure we never broke any of the Google's marketplace rules."
A senior Google research scientist has quit the company in protest over its plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China.
Jack Poulson worked for Google's research and machine intelligence department, where he was focused on improving the accuracy of the company's search systems. In early August, Poulson raised concerns with his managers at Google after The Intercept revealed that the internet giant was secretly developing a Chinese search app for Android devices. The search system, code-named Dragonfly, was designed to remove content that China's authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.
After entering into discussions with his bosses, Poulson decided in mid-August that he could no longer work for Google. He tendered his resignation and his last day at the company was August 31.
He told The Intercept in an interview that he believes he is one of about five of the company's employees to resign over Dragonfly. He felt it was his "ethical responsibility to resign in protest of the forfeiture of our public human rights commitments," he said.
Poulson, who was previously an assistant professor at Stanford University's department of mathematics, said he believed that the China plan had violated Google's artificial intelligence principles, which state that the company will not design or deploy technologies "whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights."