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Making censorship circumvention efficient and for a cause
Making censorship circumvention efficient and for a cause

Alkasir is a software developed for the promotion of freedom and knowledge and does that for free. The software does not require any display of advertisements, nor does it require subscription payments. The program's ability to track censorship of individual ISPs in every country of the world makes it a unique research tool, in order to academically study the trends of censorship worldwide and hence, contributes to knowledge by presenting verifiable empirical data on censorship that is collected with the help of thousands of Alkasir users around the globe.

“Alkasir” is the English transliteration of الكاسر, which is the Arabic word for “the circumventor” or “the breaker” as a way to metaphorically signal its main task of breaking through digital firewalls and allowing users access to blocked websites. It was originally developed by Walid Al-Saqaf, a Yemeni journalist & software developer who had been subjected to censorship himself and decided to start a movement to confront and map censorship in the Arab world, which explains the source of its naming.

Today however, Alkasir allows users around the world to circumvent (bypass) censorship of URLs and simultaneously, helps keep track of patterns of URL blocking. It is predominantly used by persons in countries where there is censorship of political content such as news, opinion articles, blog entries, forum discussions, political videos, etc., but can also be used in any other country.

For Mapping and Circumventing Cyber Censorship

Alkasir 2.0 BETA has just recently been released and is currently being experimented by many users around the world. Our most senior developers at 23C have been working on it for over a year, and spent extensive time to ensure that it uses the most robust and versatile open-source libraries – including Tor's latest pluggable transport (obfs4) – and has implemented an API to allow reading anonymous statistics gathered from users across the globe

One of the unique features of Alkasir is its ability to keep you informed about which URLs are still blocked and which are not. The automatic update built-in feature of Alkasir makes allows it to track if any previously blocked URLs have been unblocked and removes it automatically from its database locally on the computer and on the database. Hence, it serves as a source of information about censorship patterns.

Dr. Walid Al-Saqaf
2010 TEDGlobal Fellow Walid Al-Saqaf's website, Yemeni Portal, was blocked by Yemen government in 2008. Listen to Walid as he talks through the birth of Alkasir 1.0 – the software that is preventing his site (and thousands of others) from being censored

“A cross-platform, open-source and robust website censorship circumvention tool that also maps censorship patterns around the world”

Alkasir 2.0 is open-source and its code is available for access directly in GitHub to fork. We see it as important to contribute to available open-source circumvention solutions, as it is to introduce new ideas and creative solutions to the ongoing problem of censorship online. Please consider participating with your thoughts and skills if you share similar feelings, either by getting in touch with us by e-mail or by collaborating on GitHub.

Initial feedback indicates that the software is indeed operating with good speed. However, enhancements to the interface, more languages, and improved functionality to deal with various settings are being planned. Thanks to the vast international support and ongoing help, mostly by NGO's – but also by individuals and others – the development of an Android version will commence shortly as soon as usability tests, interviews, and field studies, has completed. Even though an application with such an importance for political activists – who have a very strong self-interest in using the tool – it's imperative that there are no artificial barriers when assisting people to create their own future, or some might even be dissuaded.

Alkasir has been featured in many notable publications, such as Wired, The Guardian, CNN (video), Huffington Post, and Fusion.

You can download Alkasir, as it's available for Windows 32- & 64-bit, Mac OSX and Linux/GTK