Week in Review: 4 May 2018

by Dan Bateyko

Google and Amazon end support for censorship-circumventing method

Amazon Web Services (AWS) joined Google this week in ending their support for “domain fronting,” a method that enables Internet users to access censored privacy-protecting technologies and censorship-circumvention apps such as Signal, Psiphon, and Tor.

Signal put out a blog post early this week claiming that AWS issued them a notice that Signal would be in violation of its terms of service if it intended to use AWS for domain fronting. Signal had previously used the Google App Engine, before Google made an internal change to stop domain fronting last week. In an blog post, Amazon describes their decision to protect against domain fronting, noting that “tools including malware can use this technique between completely unrelated domains to evade restrictions and blocks.”

In an Access Now blog post critical of Google and Amazon’s decision, Senior Legislative Manager Nathan White writes that “domain fronting has become a valuable tool for internet freedom around the world. Services using domain fronting are not freeloaders trying to save a buck. In many cases they are human rights defenders trying to protect their rights to free speech, free association, and freedom from undue surveillance.” By Access Now’s estimation, a dozen or so apps and technologies rely on domain fronting. A Quartz article notes that these tools have been used across Africa to bypass government Internet shutdowns.

To learnread more about domain fronting read “Blocking-resistant communication through domain fronting

Peppa Pig censored by Chinese app Douyin

The Chinese video-streaming app Douyin has removed videos of Peppa Pig, a children’s cartoon character, reports the BBC. While the company has yet to issue comment on the takedown, The New York Times reports on speculation that the company preemptively pulled the videos for their use in sexually suggestive memes and discomfort concerning Peppa Pig’s status as a symbol in slacker youth culture.

The South China Morning Post included a list of previously banned cartoon characters by state policies and social media companies in its article on the Peppa Pig event, including Spongebob Squarepants, Despicable Me 2, and Winnie the Pooh.