Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to Watch Al Jazeera English In the US - Step by Step Instructions

Al Jazeera English (AJE) has decided to cut off online streaming to the US rather gracelessly. This is an attempt to direct current US viewership to their new offering, Al Jazeera America (AJAM). But, like many people, I don't watch Al Jazeera on a television (if I do, I happily stream it from my netbook to TV) and I am not very excited about what is being blasted as "watered down" US coverage. I want to finish watching The French African Connection and I require the Empire episodes. I want the cautious political analysis of Marwan Bishara, not whatever CNN-inspired line the new advertiser elite who put together AJAM.

Ahead of the August 20th launch date for AJAM, AJE cut off all streaming to the US market. This was by no means a popular action - see Glenn Greenwald's excellent write-up on the issue (and while you're there, wish him luck with his recent battles with the UK/US over media free speech). Either way, here is how to access the AJE content from within the US:

  Edit 3-26-15: Tor has changed its structure - these are the new, easier steps to get Al Jazeera video streams in the US:

C. Click the orange "TorBrowser" button on the far top-left of the Tor window.
D. Click "Add-ons" (beside the blue puzzle piece icon)
E. Click "Plugins" (beside a blue 2x2 LEGO brick)
F. In the list, find "Shockwave Flash"* beside which is a drop-down menu. Choose "Always Activate" on that menu.
*(You may have to restart Tor if you don't see Shockwave Flash in the list - go back to step 'C' if that is the case).
G. Close the Add-ons Manager Tab (listed at the very top of the Tor window).
H. Navigate to and view your preferred content!*
*(You may find that Al Jazeera still thinks you are in the US and will not play video. Go to the next step to solve that problem)

Troubleshooting: sometimes Tor network uses an identity that is in the US, which will not allow streaming from AJE. Follow the next steps to fix this.

I. Click the small green onion on the top-left of the Tor window under the orange button.
J. Click New Identity; return to step 'H' to try streaming

If you are still having trouble with Flash Player, follow these steps:

K. Click the small green onion on the top-left of the Tor window under the orange button.
L. Choose  "Preferences..."
M. Choose the "Security Settings" tab
N. Uncheck "Disable browser plugins (such as flash)" and "Restrict third party cookies..."
O. Click OK
P. Return to step 'H' to try streaming
Q. If flash still doesn't work, return to step "C" to activate Flash Plugin. If AJE thinks you are in the US again, return to step "I" for a new identity.


Further Errata:

Revealed NSA involvement in the Tor project means that the security features we disable to activate Flash Player were weakening the "security" of a system heavily surveiled by the NSA anyways. I actually don't think that watching the channel variously endorsed by US presidents and State Dept officials will put you on any intelligence agency radar. But if you truly need your viewing habit protected and private, it is not likely that this (or any other online method) will accomplish that. Bulk data collection, that is mass surveilance in the form of internet "trunk" data copying means that our government has every means to collect every piece of data on certain routing lines, and enough time to decode anything it targets intensely enough.

Sensible measures should especially be in place should you be involved in practices targeted by the NSA (like whistleblowing of any sort) - keep your sensitive information on a disk that you don't access while online, and only access them from a computer you can certify is free of spyware/malware etc. etc. - preferably one that has its online connectivity totally deactivated.

(Below are listed the previous steps, in case they are still useful for anyone)