This website is part of a collaborative project between researchers at the University of New Mexico and the Citizen Lab. There is an article about the research in Bloomberg Businesweek, and an interview on Bloomberg TV here.
This material is partly based upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0844880. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. National Science Foundation. The contributions of the Citizen Lab to this project were financially supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Jedidiah Crandall, Masashi Crete-Nishihata, Jeffery Knockel, Sarah McKune, Adam Senft, Diana Tseng, and Greg Wiseman, "Chat Program Censorship and Surveillance in China: Tracking TOM-Skype and Sina UC" First Monday, 18:7, July 1 2013, http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4628/3727
In this paper, we present an analysis of over one year and a half of data from tracking the censorship and surveillance keyword lists of two instant messaging programs used in China. Through reverse engineering of TOM–Skype and Sina UC, we were able to obtain the URLs and encryption keys for various versions of these two programs and have been downloading the keyword blacklists daily. This paper examines the social and political contexts behind the contents of these lists, and analyzes those times when the list has been updated, including correlations with current events.
This research builds upon prior work conducted by the Citizen Lab and University of New Mexico researchers:
Breaching Trust: An analysis of surveillance and security practices on China’s TOM-Skype platform, Information Warfare Monitor, 2008.
In 2008, Citizen Lab researcher Nart Villeneuve documented surveillance and censorship of messages on the TOM-Skype client, as well as the presence of millions of chat records on an unsecured publicly-accessible server.
Jeffrey Knockel, Jedidiah R. Crandall, and Jared Saia. Three Researchers, Five Conjectures: An Empirical Analysis of TOM-Skype Censorship and Surveillance. In the Proceedings of the USENIX Workshop on Free and Open Communications on the Internet. (FOCI 2011). San Francisco, California. August 2011.
In 2011, University of New Mexico researchers were able to reverse engineer multiple versions of the TOM-Skype client, decrypt censorship and surveillance keyword lists for each client, and reported on list updates over the period of one month
- Nicholas Aase, Jedidiah R. Crandall, Alvaro Diaz, Jeffrey Knockel, Jorge Ocana Molinero, Jared Saia, Dan Wallach, and Tao Zhu. Whiskey, Weed, and Wukan on the World Wide Web: On Measuring Censors' Resources and Motivations. In the Proceedings of the 2nd USENIX Workshop on Free and Open Communications on the Internet. (FOCI 2012). Bellevue, Washington. August 2012
This earlier work was followed in 2012 by work which reverse engineered the Sina UC chat client, obtained the URL and encryption keys for downloading censorship lists used by the client, and provided a high-level comparison of the Sina UC lists with the TOM-Skype lists