World Day Against Cyber Censorship: RSF runs “one of the world’s biggest censorship circumvention operations”

To mark World Day Against Cyber Censorship, which Reporters Without Borders (RSF) initiated and which is celebrated on 12 March, RSF is pleased to announce that its Operation Collateral Freedom is currently enabling the websites of more than 100 media outlets in 32 countries to circumvent censorship – a 20% increase in one year.

Launched by RSF in 2015, Operation Collateral Freedom enables media outlets throughout the world to circumvent censorship by creating mirror sites – complete copies of the blocked sites that are constantly synched with the originals – and placing them in different online locations. 

In order to adapt to the evolution in censorship techniques, RSF has also provided media with IT resources through the Collateral Freedom app since August 2023, which allows them to mirror sites hosted on the online infrastructure used by RSF. 

The 480 mirror sites on RSF’s servers are currently enabling access to 100 censored media outlets. Renowned Russian outlets such as Meduza and The Moscow Times are currently taking advantage of this mechanism to evade censorship by Roskomnadzor, the Russian telecoms regulator, which has stepped up its persecution of independent media.

Operation Collateral Freedom is complemented by other RSF operations designed to enable independent exiled media to deliver information to their targeted audiences. This includes the Svoboda satellite package, which was launched on 6 March to broadcast independently reported news content to Russian speakers in Europe, Russia, Belarus and the Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.

“It is vital that we respond to the growth in online censorship and the amplification of disinformation by making independent media more accessible in their countries of origin. Year by year, Collateral Freedom has established itself as one of the world’s biggest censorship circumvention operations. The growth in mirroring is the result of a major investment by RSF. Collateral Freedom enables censored websites to be accessible online again, while Svoboda enables radio and TV channels to be broadcast by satellite.”

Christophe Deloire

RSF secretary-general 


Collateral Freedom assists Russian exiled media

Riga-based Meduza, the most widely-read independent Russian news site, which received its first mirror site from RSF at the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, continues to use RSF’s technology to reach its audience in the Russian Federation, either through the original mirror or RSF’s app. When the news of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s death broke, Meduza’s mirrors received more than 15 million requests (about 300,000 page views) in 48 hours.

Mirror sites are becoming even more essential to circumvent Russian internet censorship since the Duma – the lower house of Russia’s parliament – passed a law banning access to major VPN providers starting 1 March. 

Iranian and Chinese media accessible thanks to Collateral Freedom 

Operation Collateral Freedom is helping to restore access to blocked media in other countries hostile to press freedom. RSF created a mirror of the BBC News Persian website for Iranians last September and, since early 2023, it has extended its operation to news sites targeting China, one of the world’s most oppressive countries for journalists and the right to information. RSF has mirrored eight new news sites, including Women, Voice of Tibet and Xinjiang Database, bringing the number of Chinese media benefitting from Operation Collateral Freedom to 18. 

"This initiative is much needed in China, where the public do not have access to reliable and independent information,” said a journalist with Women who asked not to be identified. “By unblocking censored websites, the Chinese public will better understand the policies related to their interests, and it will enable the supervision of the government so that it can truly serve its people." 

A list of sites unblocked by RSF’s Operation Collateral Freedom – that is constantly updated if security requirements permit – is available on the operation’s GitHub page. Media outlets that have been unblocked since the start of 2023 include the Belarusian site BelarusinFocus, the Chinese sites Voice of Tibet, Tibet Times, Xinjiang Victim Database, Akademiye, Photon Media and Women, Togo’s L’, and several Guinean media that have been persecuted in recent months, including Guinée Matin, L’Inquisiteur and Mosaïque Guinée.

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Updated on 11.03.2024