Recently, André Mendes, CIO/CTO for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, spoke at two high-profile events which focused on the BBG’s use of cutting-edge technology to circumvent Internet censorship.
On Monday, March 1, Mendes briefed the University of Southern California-Public Diplomacy Council’s lunchtime forum on the rapid evolution of the technology used by U.S. international broadcasting. On Friday, March 8 at the U.S. State Department’s Tech@State panel on “Enabling the Publishers,” Mendes described the latest innovations successfully deployed by the BBG’s Internet Anti-Censorship (IAC) program.
“We are in a quite unique position,” Mendes explained. “While other news organizations continually adapt and shift their investment to new technologies, the BBG and its broadcasters also must rapidly adopt these new avenues to reach their audience and at the same time are required to maintain older and increasingly less effective broadcast technologies. While our budgets continue to shrink, our portfolio continues to grow and now ranges all the way from shortwave radio to Twitter. It’s certainly a challenge from a resource standpoint, but we are tackling it head on and succeeding in unprecedented ways. Today, the BBG is putting the best set of signals ever in the history of this Agency into some of our most strategic targets like Iran, China, North Korea, Afghanistan and Libya.
Reaching audiences in repressive regimes requires agility, speed and adaptability, and, as Mendes outlined, the BBG uses every tool available to do so. Whether it is something as simple as email, as effective as radio over satellite, or as sophisticated as a mobile app that provides secure Internet access via the Tor network, the key, Mendes explained, is finding the most effective way to reach citizens on the ground.
“It’s a cat and mouse game and so we must constantly evolve our game plan. As soon as a new proxy server comes online, it becomes a target and is eventually blocked so we must be ready to deploy new ones on a continuous basis” said Mendes.
Reaching those audiences is an ongoing challenge. Mendes explained that increasingly, repressive governments are collaborating on jamming, finding new ways to block content, and targeting activists. The BBG’s IAC Division provides a variety of tools to circumvent filtering and promote Internet freedom for citizens of countries whose governments censor their access. The Division works closely with BBG broadcasters who target censoring countries to ensure access to their content and educate their audience about Internet censorship and safely circumventing filters.
“The BBG excels at putting out the highest quality signal, in the most places, in the most languages, and under some of the most difficult circumstances,” Mendes concluded. “I could not be more proud of what we accomplish on a daily basis. After all, in this game, results are what really count.”