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Dec 13, 2016

Psiphon Is 10 Years Old!

This month Psiphon turns 10 years old! We would like to thank you for your support, as we look forward keeping the Internet open for many more years!

Psiphon began at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab as a ‘network of trust’ amongst people who knew each other. The first version of the software allowed a person’s computer in a non-censored country to act as a server for a friend in a censored region, and helped to prove that there was a real need for the open Internet.

Psiphon 2 was developed soon after, no longer requiring people in censored regions to know people in an uncensored country. Psiphon runs servers, known as Psiphon nodes, which act as proxies for users in censored regions, and can be accessed via a simple URL.

In 2008, Psiphon won the Netxplorateur Grand Prix 2008. The panelists called Psiphon “the world’s most original, significant and exemplary Net and Digital Initiative.”  The following year, Psiphon was recognized with The Economist Best New Media Award by Index on Censorship.

In 2011 a downloadable Psiphon app – known as Psiphon 3 –  was launched for Windows, allowing any application that recognized system proxies to access the network through a Psiphon tunnel. At the end of 2012, Psiphon 3 became available for mobile devices. Psiphon 3 is dynamic and resilient. Our specialist team of top developers continuously work to improve the software and fight the ever more advanced censorship techniques faced on the internet. This means Psiphon often works when other simple VPNs do not. All of Psiphon’s software is open source, and has been independently security audited.

Psiphon popularity is due in a large part to promotion through our media sponsors and partners. We work closely with Toronto-based NGO ASL19, who help Internet users in the Middle East and North Africa region assert their digital rights online and access information. We also work with major broadcasters, including Deutsche Welle, BBC, and Voice of America, to help them reach their audiences, and to provide Psiphon users with access to news and to an open Internet.

We have also been able to work with many organizations to help bring awareness to their various projects through our content distribution network. Last year we promoted the BFI Flare Film Festival, which helped raise awareness of LGBT issues. We also promoted Action Against Hunger after the earthquake in Nepal to bring awareness and donations to the disaster-stricken region. This year, we have also worked with Google’s Jigsaw and VICE News to promote a series of documentaries about freedom of expression, as well as partnering with Global Citizen to encourage US voters to take part in this year’s Presidential election.

Aside from our diverse partnership opportunities, our team actively engages in local events and international conferences to gain understanding and share ideas about pressing issues that are affecting Internet freedom. Last week, we hosted a session at the Internet Governance Forum on the implications of VoIP crackdown on government, telecom, and civil society. We also recently attended the first Asia Pacific School of Internet Governance in Thailand to learn about the rising problems to Internet Governance in Asia Pacific. We have participated numerous times at the Internet Freedom Festival where we learn about censorship trends and connect with the wider Internet freedom community, and contributed to a PETS paper for the wider technical community.

It has been an eventful, innovative, and exciting ten years for Psiphon! We look forward to what the future brings. Look out for more innovations and product releases in 2017!

Visit psiphon.ca to see our 10-year anniversary web site, and be one of the first to play our game!

Want to collaborate with Psiphon in 2017? Contact us at info@psiphon.ca

Follow our Twitter and Facebook for more updates!


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Dec 7, 2016

Gambia's Election Shutdown

Access Now recently reported that there have been over 50 Internet shutdowns around the world in 2016, compared to 15 known shutdowns the previous year. Many of these shutdowns have taken place in Africa - as seen in a recent Psiphon blog piece documenting a shutdown and social media blocking event in Gabon.

Last week, another shutdown happened in Gambia. Just after 9pm local time on November 30th 2016, we received a message from our friend Moses Karanja, a researcher at the research fellow at the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) in Kenya. Moses asked if we were able to verify reports he had seen on social media, saying that the Internet was unavailable in Gambia.


From our network monitoring, we could see that there had been a total drop-off in Psiphon traffic at just after 8pm local time. To verify this, we contacted Akamai’s State of the Internet team, to see if they had also seen a drop in traffic. Within a few minutes, they confirmed it for us, and tweeted to let the world know.
We followed this up with our own tweet, showing a similar effect on our network.


This outage occurred on the eve of the country’s presidential election on December 1st. The incumbent, Yahya Jammeh, had warned against people taking part in any protests that would follow an election he expected to win.

Following Jammeh's defeat in the election to Adama Barrow, the candidate chosen to represent seven opposition parties, Internet and telecommunication services began to be restored. The outage was expected to last into Saturday December 3rd, but instead was reversed by 11.30 on Friday December 2nd.

The reporting of the shutdown and confirmation at the network level came about due to close collaboration between the research community and the private sector, and helped to highlight the growing number of Internet shutdowns that are occurring across the world. For more information, read this piece from Moses Karanja, as he continues to track and document Internet shutdowns in Africa.

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Dec 1, 2016

Global Citizen #ShowupVote and the United States Election


Ahead of the 2016 United States elections, Global Citizen launched its Show Up and Vote” campaign to encourage young Americans to vote. In addition to an online campaign, represented by the hashtag #ShowupVote, Global Citizen hosted a series of events and concerts with high-profile artists. 

Psiphon #ShowupVote Promotion During Elections

In the week ahead of the election, Psiphon promoted the #ShowupVote campaign to our US audience,
showing a selection of images and a brief paragraph explaining the importance of the project.

In the final two days ahead of the election, the promotion was changed to ensure maximum visibility of the #ShowupVote content.

As election day ended, Psiphon followed this up by taking users to Global Citizen’s live coverage, giving them a chance to follow the results as they came in.

Overall, Global Citizen’s content was seen 1.5 million times in the US.


Worldwide Interest in U.S. Elections

In highly censored regions, during national and international news events, it is common for the use of circumvention tools to increase as people attempt to acquire news from a variety of sources. The U.S. election was no exception.

There was an increase in use of Psiphon in many countries, including from Vietnam, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, during the lead-up to and on the day of the election. The increase was most notable from China, where live-streaming coverage of the U.S. election was banned and TV networks were told to avoid “excessive” coverage of the event.


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