Senate passes Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act

Late last night, the Senate passed the Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act.

Nico links to the presser just co-released by a number of senators, including leads McCain, Liberman and Graham, Casey, Kaufman and others.

Important bits:

• Authorizes $30 million to the Broadcasting Board of Governors to expand Farsi language broadcasting into Iran by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s Radio Farda and the Voice of America’s Persian News Network. The funds may be used to develop additional transmission capability to counter Iranian government efforts to jam radio, satellite, and Internet-based transmissions; establish additional proxy server capability and anti-censorship software to counter efforts to block access to websites in Iran; develop technologies to counter efforts to block SMS text message exchange over cellular phone networks; and hire, on a permanent or short-term basis, additional staff for Radio Farda and the Persian News Network.

• Authorizes $20 million for a new “Iranian Electronic Education, Exchange, and Media Fund,” which will support the development of technologies, including websites, that will aid the ability of the Iranian people to gain access to and share information; counter efforts to block, censor, or monitor the Internet in Iran; and engage in Internet-based education programs and other exchanges with Americans online.

• Requires a report by the President on non-Iranian companies, including corporations with U.S. subsidiaries, that have aided the Iranian government’s Internet censorship efforts, including by providing deep packet inspection technology.

Entire text of the bill, courtesy of THOMAS at the Library of Congress, after the jump:Read more“Senate passes Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act”

Haystack wants your USB thumb drives!

For the uninitiated: Haystack is an awesome, new, anti-filtering software that’s custom-designed for Iran. It’s run out of San Francisco run by my new friend and green hat hacker extraordinaire, Austin Heap.

Haystack is moving along quite quickly — heck, they’ve even got a swank new website! — and in addition to donating money, you too can help in a really easy, but meaningful way, too:

If you’ve got a spare USB thumb drive (at least 128MB or greater), send ’em in a plain envelope here:

Austin Heap
PO Box 423060
San Francisco, CA 94142

The Haystack crew will be using these drives to safely get copies of the software inside Iran, to join the small handful of current Haystack users. It’s low-tech, but still pretty effective.

July 7: Cyrus on PRI’s The World

Dear Friends,

I’ve been informed that my radio piece on Haystack and the Dutch Parliament’s new technological support for Iran is airing today.

It will be available on any of these stations (and their Internet streams):

NYC – 3 pm Eastern – WNYC – 820 AM –
Washington, DC – 8 pm Eastern – WAMU – 88.5 FM –
Los Angeles – 12 pm Pacific – KPCC – 89.3 FM – www.kpcc.opg
Boston – 4 pm Eastern – WGBH – 89.7 FM –
San Francisco – 2 pm Pacific – KQED – 88.5 FM –

You can also find it on The World’s site later in the day and on my site if you miss the broadcast.

Also, don’t forget about The World’s Tech Podcast, hosted by my boss, Clark Boyd. It comes out every Friday.

Lemme know if you hear it!

Update: Audio is here.

Flickr and Twitter now play nicely with one another

Since Iran has been going nuts since the election, I’ve found myself glued to Twitter much more than before. I’ve used it to send out articles that I’ve found interesting, and get a handle on what people are talking about. More recently, I’ve used it to experiment with sending out photos of what I see when I’m out in the world.

I have my Flickr email address and my Twitpic address both in my iPhone, so that with a single email I can send my photo to both sides (and Facebook too, as I’ve integrated Twitter with it, too). Last night, I used it to take this snap of the latest example of hopejacking in my neighborhood here in Oakland.

Earlier this month, Flickr added a way to add photos to Twitter messages through its new Twitpic rival service, aptly name

However, starting today, there’s a new way to tweet photos in your own Flickr library or other photos on the site. This feature makes sharing photos that much easier, which is pretty sweet. Simply add Flickr2Twitter to your account, authorize it, and off you go.

Now if only Twitter could somehow integrate itself with MMS, then we’d be totally, photographically, set.

How to translate Persian Twitter messages automatically

The Iranophile blog “Is this Ta’arof?” shows how to use Greasemonkey and the new Google Translate tool to help better understand what’s being said in Persian on Twitter. Of course, Google’s translation ability is still in alpha, and likely isn’t 100 percent accurate, but it’s better than nothing. This should work on Windows, Mac or Linux equally well.

If you’re not techy and don’t understand the difference between a cup of java and JavaScript, fear not! This takes about a minute to set up once you’ve got the pieces in place and is super, super easy. (Seriously.)

I’ve adapted John’s instructions to make them a little more clear and a little easier.

So, here’s what you’ll need to download first:

[0) New version.]

1) Firefox browser. (If you have this already, then skip this step)

2) Greasemonkey. (This a really sweet Firefox plugin that lets you, as John writes: “allows you to customize web-pages with little bits of Javascript. Or, as Paul Boutin once wrote: “[lets you] modify webpages to suit your tastes.”) Again, if you already have this, you can skip this step.

3) Once you’ve got those squared away, go download my modified Google Translate script for Greasemonkey. This is the little bit of code that will do the translation for you. There probably will be a pop-up window asking if you want to install this script. You do.

In John’s version, he’ll tell you to go download the script from the official site. Then you’ll have to modify one line of code, as the script hasn’t been updated since Google added Persian.

But I’ve already done that for you, so you can download my already-modified version instead.

4) Now we’ve got to make a tiny change to the Google Translate script to make sure that it supports HTTPS. (If that doesn’t mean anything to you, then don’t fret over it.)

You can do this straightaway when the pop-up appears when you install the script. Or, you can go to the Tools menu, select “Greasemonkey” and then select “Manage User Scripts.” Or, you can right-click (that’s Ctrl-click for Mac people like me) the monkey icon in the lower right corner of your browser window and choose “Manage User Scripts.”

No matter how you do it, you should get a screen like this:

Click the “Add…” button and put in this line:*

Do it again for:


Now there should be four lines in the “Included Pages” box as shown above.

5) Restart Firefox.

6) Login to Twitter. (This is important.)

7) Go to a Twitter page with Persian text on it, like:

VIII. Move your mouse over the Persian text. On the right side, under the Favorites star and the reply-to folded arrow should be a new, lower-case letter “t.” If you click that then you should get something like this:

NB: You can modify the script to default to a different source language. Also, this script works with any of the Google-supported target languages, which include Arabic, Korean and Estonian.

Any questions? Contact me.

Email is cfarivar [at] cfarivar [dot] org or find me on Twitter: @cfarivar

[via Poynter]

How to swap or give-away SIM cards?

In the last year, I’ve been to Finland (where I bought a temporary SIM card for my three-day trip there). I also have SIM cards for Iran, Estonia, the Netherlands, France, the US, Senegal and others. But once I get home, these SIM cards are useless to me — they sit in my desk drawer. I’m sure there’s hundreds if not thousands of other people worldwide who have a stack of SIM cards that they don’t use much, but keep on the off-chance that they do return to those countries.

For example, today, I lent my Dutch and Finnish SIM cards to another English assistant who is going to those countries over the Christmas break. Both have < 10€ of credit on them (assuming they haven't expired), and I can't use them at all as I have no plans to go to either of those countries anytime soon. And that got me wondering -- why isn't there a website/service, analogous to CouchSurfing or something, where I can temporarily borrow/swap a SIM card that I only need for a short time (say, a week or less), without having to pay much for it, or go through the hassle of buying a new phone number/SIM card. Before I came to France, I bought two used SIM cards on Craigslist in the Bay Area, and boy am I glad that I did, because new ones (at least from Orange) cost 15€ just for the card. So, any enterprising web developer up for the challenge?

Dutch WiFi café uses ever-changing SSID to guilt freeloaders

AdRants has found a great way to get those WiFi freeloaders like me to start buying more coffee — advertise specials and guilt messages in the SSID of the network, like this café in the Netherlands.


By continuously changing the names of their store networks to such things as OrderAnotherCoffeeAlready, BuyCoffeeForCuteGirlOverThere?, HaveYouTriedCoffeeCake?, BuyAnotherCupYouCheapskate, TodaysSpecialExpresso1.60Euro and BuyaLargeLatterGetBrownieForFree, the chain is able to both promote items as well as guilt patrons into realizing free WiFi really isn’t totally free.

Hilarity ensued when patrons would ask the barista what the name of the network was and the barista would shout, “OrderAnoterCoffeeAlready” or any of the other witty names.

Simple. Effective. Cost-efficient. What’s not to love?

In search of an unlocked quad-band GSM phone

I’m looking for a backup phone to take on an upcoming trip to Europe and as a phone to take while skiing.

I’d like it to be new/used, under $100, quad-band, and ideally with GPRS/EDGE support that lets me download POP email from anywhere I want.

Seems like the Motorola SLVR or the RIZR would fit the bill, but I’m willing to entertain other ideas.

I ended up buying a Motorola RIZR for $80 on craigslist.

AutoPrint 2.0

I just found this awesome Greasemonkey script, Autoprint 2.0, which automatically switches to the print version for a whole host of news websites.