This week I was in Kampala and had the opportunity to meet a friend-of-a-friend, John Gattorn, a super-cool dude who does human rights and democracy work. As I’m obsessed with finding practical ways to use technology for social change, I told him about Global Voices Advocacy and their guide to blogging anonymously. Two days later, my friend Zach Everson sent me this Economist article: Blog standard: Authoritarian governments can lock up bloggers. It is harder to outwit them. (Zach has the best habit of occasionally sending me Economist articles that might interest me. I love him for that.)

The article gives a great overview, but it does not provide any practical links. So here they are:

  • Anonymous Blogging Guide: A step-by-step way to protecting your privacy and your safety
  • Blog for a Cause: How to use blogs as advocacy tools for political and social change (in English, Spanish, Arabic)

Beyond using blogs, people are also using cell phones (see FrontlineSMS and Mobile Active) and Twitter for similar types of work (see Andy Carvin’s Can Twitter Save Lives?, Ethan Zuckerman’s Never thought of using it that way…, and the KM4Dev’s community’s Twitter knowledgebase).

Let me know if you come across any other ideas or resources. These technologies can also be used in other sectors. Environmental activists, for example, can use them to alert authorities and mobilize people to combat illegal logging or poaching.

PS. You can also use Twitter to take care of your plants while you’re away saving the world. Check out


  1. Christine
    July 23, 2008

    More resources:

    Psiphon, developed by Toronto-based civic activists at The Citizen Lab, is an open-source secure Web browsing tool designed to let people in repressive countries tunnel through government Internet filters. The program allows users with unfiltered Internet access to provide a private, SSL-encrypted Web proxy for use by individuals in firewalled countries.

    Psiphon takes a substantially different approach than secure browsing tools like The Onion Router (Tor — the system used in the Anonymous Blogging Guide, listed above). Unlike Tor, it requires zero setup on the part of the user behind the firewall — but at the cost of dispensing with Tor’s absolute anonymity. Read more at

  2. Christine
    July 23, 2008

    And for more on internet filtering see the OpenNet Initiative’s book, Access Denied, at

  3. Christine
    September 24, 2008

    Check out Dmitri Vitaliev‘s book: Digital Security and Privacy for Human Rights Defenders, produced by Frontline, an Irish nonprofit that works to protect human rights defenders.

  4. Christine
    March 29, 2009

    According to the folks at Berkman, the Anonymous Blogging Guide was updated on March 10, 2009. Make sure your using the current version. An check out their tips here:

  5. Christine
    June 15, 2009

    Update: See Patrick Meier’s post on how to communicate securely in repressive environments:

  6. Christine
    June 25, 2009

    Another resource: FreeGate. The Global Internet Freedom Consortium.

  7. Christine
    August 4, 2009

    A friend just tipped me off to Haystack. I’m putting it here for now. Have not checked it out yet. Focuses on Iran.

    From their website: “Haystack is a new program to provide unfiltered internet access to the people of Iran. A software package for Windows, Mac and Unix systems, called Haystack, specifically targets the Iranian government’s web filtering mechanisms. Similar to Freegate, the program directed against China’s “great firewall,” once installed Haystack will provide completely uncensored access to the internet in Iran while simultaneously protecting the user’s identity. No more Facebook blocks, no more government warning pages when you try to load Twitter, just unfiltered Internet.

  8. Christine
    September 20, 2010

    Problems with Haystack. Be careful! From a Technology Review article, Anticensorship Tool Proves Too Good to Be True: Experts warn that the software could identify those it claims to protect.

    “Haystack, has won awards and praise for enabling political activists and ordinary citizens to beat government controls barring Internet content. But security expert Jacob Appelbaum warns that it leaves a trail of clues that could be used to find whoever’s using it, and what content they have accessed. Experts say this highlights the importance of having outside experts review technologies intended for this kind of use.”