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Your old USB drive can fight North Korean brainwashing - Here's how

Did you know that 128 gigabyte flash drives are going for as little as $28 online? That's staggering when you think that just a few years ago, that kind of money would barely get you a 16GB drive.

In fact, you probably have a drawer with older, smaller flash drives that you've tossed aside as newer and larger models arrived. You don't want to just throw them away, but why use them when your newer drive will store 10 times the data? Now you have another option, and it could help bring down one of the world's most oppressive regimes.

When you think of oppressive dictatorships, North Korea is probably very high on the list. It keeps its people under control with brutal punishments and a steady diet of propaganda that paints the rest of the world as dangerous, hostile and technologically inferior.

To keep up the propaganda side, North Korea has to keep its people out of contact with the rest of the world. That's why the country remains in a perpetual dark age with very little technology. In fact, if you ever look at photos from space of the Earth at night, there's a huge dark spot where North Korea is.

That's where your flash drives can help.

There are groups based out of South Korea and China that load flash drives and memory cards with news, interviews with defectors and TV shows from the Western world ("Friends" and "Desperate Housewives" are apparently favorites there). They then smuggle these to groups in North Korea, sometimes even floating them over the border by balloon.

Once the drives are in the country, North Koreans can use "notels," which are Chinese-made USB-compatible video players, or smartphones to view the content. Right now, around 3,000 to 5,000 flash drives are smuggled in every year, but groups like the North Korean Strategy Center want to get up to 2,000 a month.

If you have flash drives just sitting around and want to get involved, the Human Rights Foundation and Forum 280 have started something called "Flash Drives for Freedom." It takes any working flash drive you have.

The groups do wipe the flash drives before loading new content, however you'll probably want to do your own formatting first. Just plug your USB drive into your computer, go to My Computer, right-click on the drive and choose "Format." Tell it you want a full format. This takes longer, but is more thorough.

Does this sound like a project you'd be interested in helping out? Let us know your thoughts on this interesting idea in the comments.

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