New AppMaker Tool Promises Censorship-Free Content

NGOs and other organizations with limited resources can now build their own Android apps designed to bypass censorship filters in China and beyond, thanks to rights group GreatFire.org.

On Monday, the China-focused anti-censorship group launched its new GreatFire AppMaker tool, allowing any organization that uses it to effectively unblock its content behind the Great Firewall and in other autocratic states.

GreatFire co-founder, Charlie Smith, told Infosecurity that the tool is based on the group’s “Collateral Freedom” approach.

This relies on hosting content on major cloud services like AWS that are too important for censors to block, whilst using encrypted domains so the censors can’t selectively block URLs — in effect meaning they’d have to take down AWS completely for all users inside the Middle Kingdom.

Organizations that want to build their own censorship-busting apps first need to visit the AppMaker website, choose a name for their app and specify the web page that the app will use to gather content from, as well as a file which will serve as the app icon.

“Click ‘Submit’ after adding the information above. GreatFire will then start to compile (create) your Android app based on this information (this process will take no more than five minutes),” the group explained.

“Once the app has been compiled, a download link for the app’s Android Package (APK - or the actual software for the app) will appear. Once downloaded, your app can be installed on any Android device and be made available to others so that they can install the app.”

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has already created an app via the tool, which also draws inspiration from GreatFire’s own FreeBrowser app.

“It is time for the Chinese government's Great Firewall to come tumbling down,” said Jenny Wang, strategic advisor at the HRF. “Along with our friends at GreatFire, we stand dedicated to beating Chinese censorship - one phone at a time.”

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