Google unveils new technology to protect free speech on the web

Protection from cyber-attacks and unrestricted web browsing in oppressive regimes offered

Google has unveiled a number of new products and initiatives in order to protect freedom of expression on the internet.

The products were unveiled at a summit in New York yesterday (October 21) entitled “Conflict in a Connected World”, which was hosted by Google Ideas in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations and the Gen Next Foundation.

At the summit, which brought together “hacktivists”, dissidents, entrepreneurs, security experts and others, Google Ideas introduced its new products and initiatives to protect free expression: uProxy, Project Shield and the Digital Attack Map.

uProxy, which is still under development, is a browser extension for Google Chrome and Firefox which Google says will provide a “trusted pathway to the web, helping protect an Internet connection from filtering, surveillance and misdirection.” The tool was developed by the University of Washington and Brave New Software, a non-profit software building organisation, and was seeded by Google Ideas.

Another of the new initiatives, Project Shield, was also revealed. Project Shield will allow people to use Google’s technology to protect their website which may have otherwise come under threat from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

A DDoS attack can be carried out by anyone and can take down almost any website. The attacker looks to flood the targeted website with unwanted traffic, overloading its servers and subsequently bringing the website down. Small, independent websites – the sites which have, in the past, been instrumental in sparking social change – are particularly at risk from DDoS attacks, as they are unlikely to have adequate defence infrastructure.

Project Shield brings together Google’s current DDoS mitigation technologies and Page Speed Service (PSS), allowing people to better protect their websites and in turn preserve freedom of expression. Google are currently inviting “trusted testers” to further develop the tool.

Google Ideas also revealed one more related service, the Digital Attack Map. Built through a partnership between Google Ideas and Arbor Networks, the map is a “live data visualisation” that maps DDoS attacks from around the world.

Writing on the official blog, Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, said: “This tool shows real-time anonymous traffic data related to these attacks on free speech, and also lets people explore historic trends and see related news reports of outages happening on a given day."