A browser extension that acted as an anti-censorship tool for 185,000 people has been kicked out of the Chrome store by Google [torrentfreak.com]. 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 [sitesbloqueados.pt] (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 [torrentfreak.com].
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.”