Uzbekistan toughens Internet censorship

The national Internet services provider Uztelecom has blocked web proxy clients, further restricting access to alternative views on the web.

Several internet services providers’ clients in Uzbekistan have reported that access to proxy servers have been blocked in the country.

Web proxies remain the only available way for the majority of Uzbek people to bypass Internet censorship and to access news and analytical sites blocked in the country.

A staff member of one of the country’s major providers, Sharq Telekom, has reported on condition of anonymity that web proxies started being blocked in a centralised manner approximately in late September.

Uztelecom, the country’s only company that has access to international channels, is blocking user requests for the word “proxy” in the address of a proxy server.

Servers without the word “proxy” in their address, for example, Ninja Cloak, still remain available. There are not many web proxies like that, but they will also be blocked for users in Uzbekistan soon.

“There is information that Uztelecom is drawing up a list of available proxies [web proxies]. When a list is full, they will be included in the ban list,” the source in Sharq Telekom said.

The interviewee said that those Uzbek Internet users who want to bypass the blocking can use free proxy servers that do not have a web-interface.

He immediately made a reservation that the use of this kind of proxy servers requires additional browser customisation. But this is not accessible for the majority of internet users.

“One needs only to type in the address of a proxy in browser settings and set it to access to the network through a proxy. But practice shows that this simple procedure is technically too complicated for the majority of users,” the Shaq Telekom employee said.

But it also became difficult to find a proxy server in Uzbekistan because, in addition to web proxies, the authorities also blocked access to those sites that post lists of free proxies.

The use of anonymous networks remains the most widespread Internet censorship bypass method in Uzbekistan. Among them, the best known ones are Psiphon and Tor (The Onion Router).

There is information that Uztelecom is drawing up a list of available proxies [web proxies]. When a list is full, they will be included in the ban list

A Sharq Telecom worker
In the first half of last summer, the Ozodlik radio (the Uzbek service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) helped the creators of Psiphon to promote a software, required for its use, to develop a network for users in Uzbekistan.

However, Uzbek intelligence services already found a way to block Psiphon in mid-summer and this method is not working in the country any longer.

The country’s secret services have not yet found a key to block the Tor network, but the network developers’ site that has a link to the software required for the use of the network have long been blocked in the country. One has to find another way to go round the block to download it.