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Building Dissent Networks: Towards Effective Countermeasures against Large-Scale Communications Blackouts
Shaddi Hasan, University of California, Berkeley; Yahel Ben-David, University of California, Berkeley, and De Novo Group; Giulia Fanti, University of California, Berkeley; Eric Brewer, University of California, Berkeley, and Google; Scott Shenker, University of California, Berkeley, and International Computer Science Institute
Large-scale communications blackouts, such as those carried out by Egypt and Libya in 2011 and Syria in 2012 and 2013, have motivated a series of projects that aim to enable citizens to communicate even in the face of such heavy-handed censorship efforts. A common theme across these proposals has been the use of wireless mesh networks. We argue that such networks are poorly equipped to serve as a meaningful countermeasure against large-scale blackouts due to their intrinsically poor scaling properties. We further argue that projects in this space must consider user safety as first design priority and thus far have failed to preserve user anonymity and to rely only on innocuous hardware. From these two insights, we frame a definition of dissent networks to capture the essential requirements for blackout circumvention solutions.
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