A Paris-based media watchdog has released an ABC guide of tips for bloggers and dissidents to sneak past Internet censors in countries from China to Iran.
Reporters Without Borders' "Handbook for Blogger and Cyber-Dissidents" is partly financed by the French government and includes technical advice on how to remain anonymous online. It was launched at the Apple Expo computer show in Paris on Thursday and can also be downloaded from RSF's Web site in Chinese, Arabic, Persian, English and French
"Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure," Julien Pain, head of the watchdog's Internet Freedom desk, writes in the introduction.
In a bid to inspire budding Web diarists around the world, the 87-page booklet gives advice on setting up and running blogs, and on using pseudonyms and anonymous proxies, which can be used to replace easily traceable home computer addresses.
"With a bit of common sense, perseverance and especially by picking the right tools, any blogger should be able to overcome censorship," writes Pain.
The advice varies depending on the user's level of paranoia — from changing cyber cafes to sending cryptographically signed messages via specially formatted e-mail.
The guide explains circumvention technologies that can break through government filters but warns bloggers to check how severe the penalty will be if they are caught using them.
The freely available handbook advises bloggers to be ethical and warns that the tips are not intended for terrorists, racketeers or pedophiles who use the Internet to commit crimes.
The advice is for "a government whistleblower in a country with a less-than-transparent government," Ethan Zuckerman, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, writes in the section on "How to Blog Anonymously."
In a series of personal accounts, bloggers explain how they tried to beat censorship in countries such as Iran, China and Nepal.
"We can write freely in blogs," writes Arash Sigarchi, an Iranian journalist who was nonetheless sentenced to 14 years in prison for posting several messages online that criticized the Iranian regime.
Reporters Without Borders, an outspoken critic of media and online censorship, said the French Foreign Ministry helped pay for the booklet's printing costs.
The handbook ends with a "championship" of top Internet censors, starting with China and its "clever mix of investment, technology and diplomacy."
"A call for free elections ... has a maximum online life of about half an hour," Pain writes of censorship in China.
Over the past two years, blogs have become an increasingly popular vehicle for sharing opinions and information.
No one knows for certain just how big the so-called "blogosphere" has become. Technorati, the niche's top search engine so far, says it indexes 17.1 million sites spanning about 1.5 billion links.