Hackers in Tunisia are not taken seriously, even though they played a crucial role during the revolution. We entrusted them with these infamous machines so that they could decrypt them. They are working day in and day out to try to extract information from them. These machines were mainly used to block access to websites and IP addresses [a computer’s address on the Internet].
This equipment was used by the Ben Ali regime from 2004 to 2007. The traffic filtering methods at the time were pretty basic.
This machine was used by the Ben Ali regime to censor the Internet until 2004. Photo by Khaled Lekhlifi.
The equipment used between 2007 and 2010 was much more sophisticated, but we have not been able to give the hackers access to it because we still have a contract with the company that furnished this equipment to the Tunisian government. [Editor’s Note: Moez said he could not reveal the name of the company]. It uses a technology called DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) that was very cutting-edge when it was implemented, to the point that it had not yet been approved by international organisations. Ben Ali had committed a lot of resources to censoring the Internet during the last years of his reign. In 2010 alone, he spent 2 million euros to monitor Internet use in Tunisia.
This machine filtered data and recorded the search history of Internet users.
We care deeply about freedom of expression and having a free and open Internet. For this reason, after Ben Ali’s fall, we became the first country in Africa to install TOR servers, special servers that allow people to get around censorship. So, today, people who live in countries that do censor can use our servers to freely access the Internet. We were also the first African country to join the Freedom Online Coalition, through which countries commit to having a completely free and open Internet. This was an part of our revolution and, on this point, we won’t be turning back.