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Australia's Internet Censorship Plans Creating Backlash

Hackers Attack Government Websites; Google Refuses to Censor YouTube

2 min read
Australia's Internet Censorship Plans Creating Backlash

I have been following with interest the past 18 months or so the Australian government's controversial plans to censor the Internet. The government has conducted censorship trials which it declared a success last summer, and as a result in December it announced that would formally introduce its plan to blacklist websites sometime in 2010.

Few people were happy about the decision. Privacy and open Internet access groups such as the Electronic Freedom Foundation "co-sponsored" the Great Australian Internet Blackout during the week of the 26th of January as a way of protesting the government's decision, but to little avail.

Things have gotten a bit uglier on the protest front, however, as hackers or "cyber-activists" depending on your point of view have initiated denial of service attacks that have shut down Australian government websites for the past two days. The "activists," says this AFP news story, state that they may keep the attacks up for months if necessary.

The government has cried foul and "has condemned the cyber-attacks as irresponsible and not a legitimate form of political protest against the filter," the AFP story also reports.

In a related story, Google has told the Australian government that the company would not "voluntarily comply" with its request to remove certain YouTube videos.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian government just wanted Google to do for Australia what it did on behalf of other governments. The Herald says that, "Communications Minister Stephen Conroy referred to Google's censorship on behalf of the Chinese and Thai governments in making his case for the company to impose censorship locally."

Quoting Minister Conroy:

"What we're saying is, well in Australia, these are our laws and we'd like you to apply our laws... Google at the moment filters an enormous amount of material on behalf of the Chinese government; they filter an enormous amount of material on behalf of the Thai government."

So far, the US government and specifically Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not come out against Australia's Internet censoring plan as she has against other countries like China and Iran.

Could it be because Minister Conroy praised her speech?

The delicious irony of praising Secretary Clinton's speech while using China's censorship of the Internet as example of why Australia should be able to do the same does seem lost on Minister Conroy.

In some other Internet censoring news, Iran, which claims that Secretary Clinton's new activist cyber-diplomacy policy was aimed at undermining the Iranian government, told Google that it was permanently suspending its Gmail service there. A story in the Wall Street Journal reports that the Iranian government is planning to introduce a national email system, which will no doubt help the Iranian government keep a close eye on its growing dissident factions.

I wonder if the Iranian government will offer its own version of Google's Buzz as a feature of its email system as well?

The Conversation (0)

Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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