Amazon Bends the Knee to Autocrats (Signal)
Telegram has been putting up an impressive fight against the governments of Russia and Iran in high-profile efforts to censor the messaging service over the last few weeks. But we’ve heard little about its fellow encrypted messaging app Signal. Both services have used an anti-censorship technique called “domain fronting” to get around tyrants—and now, Google and Amazon say that’s no longer an option.
Amazon officially announced it’s increased focus on stamping out domain fronting on Friday. The statement followed closely behind a similar move by Google. On Monday, Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike posted a communication from Amazon’s team informing the privacy-focused company that it must discontinue any sort of domain fronting practices if it wants to continue using Amazon Web Services. Marlinspike lamented the crackdown, saying that Signal is being censored in Egypt, Oman, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates. The technique has allowed Signal to circumvent those blocks and continue to provide service to citizens of those countries, according to Marlinspike, but for now, it will have to comply with Amazon’s demands.
“With Google Cloud and AWS out of the picture, it seems that domain fronting as a censorship circumvention technique is now largely non-viable in the countries where Signal had enabled this feature,” wrote Marlinspike. “The idea behind domain fronting was that to block a single site, you’d have to block the rest of the internet as well. In the end, the rest of the internet didn’t like that plan.”