January 27, 2011

Give Egyptians Access to Twitter Through Your Computer

In response to the current uprising against unjust rule in Egypt, the Egyptian government has attempted to stop the revolt by eliminating Egyptian access to Twitter and Facebook. Social networking sites such as there are the lifeblood of these movements as they dissidents to quickly share information. There is an easy, legal way to help these and other freedom fighters continue to have access to these vital services despite government oppression.

The Problem

While designed to route around censorship, the internet has certain weak links that allow governments to disrupt access to certain websites. Consider the following diagram:

In normal cases the user tries to access a website, like one of the right. To do this it goes through their local ISP, which is in the middle in this diagram. The ISP looks at the request from the user and sends it on it’s merry way.

What is happening in Egypt right now is something more like this:

In this case the user requests access to Twitter but the ISP refuses to transmit the request on to Twitter itself because the government has ordered them not to. This prevents the user from accessing and using Twitter.

The Solution

The solution is something called a proxy.

In this situation the user doesn’t try to access Twitter directly through the local ISP but instead accesses it through a proxy in a country where Twitter isn’t censored. The local ISP doesn’t realize you’re actually trying to access Twitter so they let the request go through.

Fortunately setting up a proxy is EXTREMELY easy and anyone with a computer can do it. This tutorial will explain how you can set one up.

  1. If you are running Windows visit: http://www.torproject.org/dist/vidalia-bundles/vidalia-bundle- This will download the Tor proxy and allows you to set it up. If you’re not running Windows, the rest of this will be pretty useless to you. The Tor project does have slightly outdated guides so they may be of use to you.
  2. When the file is downloaded, open the file and if you’re asked if you really want to run the program, answer yes. Press okay, since we assume you do want to use the English language.
  3. The installer will popup. Just press next and then when a screen with the install button pops up, just press that. If you have Firefox, it might open and ask you if you want to install the Torbutton. For these purposes, you probably want to say no and then close Firefox.
  4. Go back to the installer and it should say the setup was completed successfully. Press next and then press finish.
  5. There will be a program in your taskbar which should have an onion icon and/or say Vidalia Control Panel. Click on it so you can see a window which should look something like this:
  6. Click the “Setup Relaying Button”
  7. The Settings screen will popup. On the top of the window there are a bunch of tabs. Click the one that says Sharing and the screen will look like this:
  8. Select “Help censored users reach the Tor network”
  9. The screen will now look like the following. Click on “Attempt to automatically configure port forwarding”
  10. Press the okay button on this screen and then the hide button on the main Vidalia screen. Now just use your computer as your normally do.

Dissidents will be able to use your internet connection to continue having access to Twitter and the other services they need to continue communicating. They will use only a little bit of your bandwidth.

If you want to uninstall this from your system, uninstall the program named Vidalia from your computer. If you have any problems, feel free to email me at wwahammy@gmail.com. I’m happy to help anyone set this up.

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