Internet censorship is an increasingly concerning issue for many people in many countries. Australia’s online censorship policy has been under scrutiny over the past few years, and was even a campaign topic in the most recent election. Although Australia’s government does in fact censor a number of sites, this censorship is guided, or at least purports to be guided, by protecting children from abusive and sexually abusive material. This comforts some people, and certainly places Australia far above countries like China, Iran, Turkmenistan, North Korea and a number of others in terms of freedom. Countries like China, Iran and many others with pervasive filtering policies have been found to block access to human rights organisations, sites concerning religions not condoned by the state, news, blogs, and any other websites that challenge the status quo or are deemed “undesirable” or threatening by according to whichever draconian standard the government in question chooses to apply. Many other sites are blocked temporarily at crucial times, coinciding with public events such as elections or public protests or demonstrations.
While some of the states practising internet censorship do enact Internet filtering legislation, most of this legislation is enacted with little to no transparency or public accountability at all. Most states do not release lists of what information has been blocked, and review or complain mechanisms that are available to citizens or publishers that have been affected are rare. In addition to all of this, the problem is compounded by reliance on commercial filtering software, which nearly always has faulty categorisation mechanisms and as such tends to over block – blocking sites that do not actually contravene any provisions of the filtering legislation.
In the face of this growing global problem, citizens around the world have sought solutions to evade government filters and exercise their basic human rights to access information of their own choosing.
The strategies, methods and tools that are used to get around internet censorship vary are referred to as “circumvention technologies.” There a a large number of circumvention technologies, and they can be used under a wide array of different situations and by different users. Each technology is different and you will find that some work better for certain situations, and some work better for different users. For example, some of the circumvention technologies require an advanced understanding and a high level of skill with computers and information technology generally in order to operate, while others are practical and easy to use by someone without that advanced knowledge. A good way to view these different circumvention technologies is simply as different tools in a toolkit. Some tools are good for some tasks, with others will be required if the task is different. Similarly, as well as suiting the tool to the task, the tool must be suited to the user. Someone with no experience at all with powertools probably should not use an electric saw for a simple job, he or she would be better using a handheld saw - slower yes, but better suited to the user in question.
The decision to use circumvention technology should be not be taken lightly. It is wise to carefully analyse your specific needs, the available resources, and also the security concerns of everyone involved. Now as the askers of this frequently asked question, you are not interested in doing any serious circumnavigation. You only want to access online gaming sites and have a bit of fun and maybe make a bit of money, and you have found yourself in a country that for some reason or another, does not think you should be allowed to do that. So here we have laid out a few options for you, none of which are too difficult and none of which should get you into too much trouble. Keep in mind that we only provide these suggestions for the purpose of accessing online gaming sites abroad. We do not recommend using these tools to circumvent Australia’s internet filtering system program, which, although not problem free, has been designed to protect children from abusive and sexually abusive material.
Firstly, there are different ways to get around internet filtering that are based on the method of filtering. These are outlined below, following a description of the type of filtering method and the websites it affects. They may require a level of skill above a typical internet user. Don’t worry if they all sound much too technical and contain abbreviations you don’t understand, after we address these methods, we give a suggestion that can be used by anyone.
- IP Blocking – This method works by blocking or denying access to a particular IP address. If the website in question is hosted in what is known as a “shared hosting server”, then all the websites on that same server will be blocked,, regardless of whether they contain content deemed inappropriate or forbidden. This means of blocking access will affect all IP-based protocols such as HTTP, FTP and POP. A typical circumvention technique is to find proxies that have access to the target websites. A problem with this is that proxies may be jammed or blocked, and also that some web sites block proxies, such as wikipedia if you are trying to edit a page. Some large websites like Google allocate additional IP addresses to counteract the blocking, but the block is usually extended to cover the new IPs.
- Packet Filtering – This method works by terminating the TCP packet transmissions once a certain number of “controversial keywords” are detected. This means of blocking access will affect all TCP-based protocols such as HTTP, FTP and POP. Search engine results pages are more likely to be censored, due to the fact that they contain many words repeated a number of times, because of the nature of the search engine results. One circumvention method is to use encrypted connections - such as VPN and TLS/SSL, which escapes the HTML content. You can also reduce the TCP/IP stack’s MTU/MSS, which reduces the amount of text contained in any one packet.
- Domain Name System (DNS) filtering and redirection – This method works by failing to resolve domain names or returning incorrect IP addresses. Similarly to IP Blocking, this means of blocking access will affect all IP-based protocols such as HTTP, FTP and POP. One way many users get around this method of filtering is to find a domain name server that resolves domain names correctly, although domain name servers are subject to filtering as well - especially IP blocking, so you may be caught there. Another way to do it is to bypass DNS if you can obtain the IP address from a different server.
- Connection reset – If a previous TCP connection has been blocked by the computer, then future connection attempts from either side will also be blocked for a period of up to thirty minutes. Other users or other websites may be blocked if the communication is routed to the location of the block, but this depends on the location of the block. You can get around this one by ignoring the reset packet that is sent by the firewall.
- Uniform Resource Locator (URL) Filtering – This method works by scanning the requested URL for particular target keywords, and does not pay attention to the domain name specified in the URL. This means of blocking access will affect HTTP protocol. You can circumvent this method of blocking by using escaped characters or encrypted protocols, for example VPN and TLS/SSL.
Okay so that was for you computer tecchies out there. For those of you without specialised knowledge in information technology, never fear, there are simple, easy to use and even free options available to you. There are programmes that have been designed that you can download for free. They run alongside your internet browser, and will take care of all the circumvention technology for you - allowing you to gain access to whatever pages you wish to view. Now, as we said above, not all of these programmes will work for every single situation. However, they are very useful for a great many situations and will probably help you get onto some internet gambling sites at the very least! One such programme is called Ultra Surf, but there are many. Get googling and you will find all your options laid out before you!