Developing a censorship-resistant app store

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Developing a censorship-resistant app store
Presenter(s) Sina Kouhi, Grant Heaslip
Title(s) Outreach manager, Front-end web developer
Organization(s) ASL19
Project(s) Paskoocheh
Country(ies) Canada
Social media Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,Telegram
2017 theme Tools & Technology


About the session

Paskoocheh is an open-source app store (available on the web and as an Android app) developed by ASL19. Paskoocheh curates and provides user support for privacy, circumvention, and anonymity tools.

Anticipating that Paskoocheh would be blocked in Iran, we created alternative censorship-resistant download channels. Users can request tool downloads from our e-mail or Telegram bots if they aren’t able to access our website.

Due to heavy information controls, Iranians face significant challenges when attempting to access the Internet. In addition, popular Iranian app markets such as Cafe Bazaar are not allowed to distribute any circumvention tools, and many tool developers over-comply with sanctions by not making their tools available to Iranians. Paskoocheh is a response to these problems.

We launched Paskoocheh on July 1st, 2016. As of February 2017, we’ve reached 850,000 download requests.

We would like to present our distinctive distribution architecture and solicit feedback on our tool selection methodology and architecture design.

About ASL19

ASL19, Farsi for Article 19, is a technology group working towards practical responses for online access to information challenges. Our work helps citizens assert their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and access to information.

Originally founded in 2012 to help Iranians bypass Internet censorship, ASL19’s work includes various projects in collaboration with diaspora groups and technology actors. Beyond working with circumvention tool developers to understand the local context and develop customized solutions, we create platforms and apps that deliver previously diffuse or complex information in accessible and attractive formats.

As an independent group connected to both Iranians and technology actors, ASL19 is a trusted bridge actor for online projects in support of civil society goals. In 2015, we also started working with the broader Middle East and North Africa region, beginning with a pilot project on user support for circumvention tools.

Format Conversation
Target Groups Circumvention tool developers and users; developers; activists; designers
Length 1 hour
Skill Level Novice
Language English


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