[tor-project] Initial roadmap for the anti-censorship team

Kate Krauss ailanthus at riseup.net
Thu Jan 24 23:14:03 UTC 2019

On 2019-01-18 9:04 am, Antonela Debiasi wrote:
> Hi Kate,
> Everybody is a UX person in an organization who advocate for users. So,
> don't apologize!
> I couldn't agree more. We have a work in progress about Personas, and
> I'd love to have your input at the next UX meeting. We made a kind of
> affinity map with the people who assisted in our security training in
> global-south during 2018; we found similarities between them and
> patterns emerged that can be observed in each group.
> It allowed us to close up into five Personas that we are defining
> nowadays. We also got a very insightful session during our Mexico City
> Dev Meeting. Notes are public.

Tl;dr: Ranty discussion of censorship in China maybe telling you stuff
you already know :)

Hi Antonela,

Thanks for your friendly note, which I read and thought a lot about.
Great to hear that personas are in the works. I'm not finding the notes
about them, could you possibly send me a link when you get a moment?
Apologies in advance if they are somewhere obvious. 

I hope one of the personas we use is this woman in China uploading video
on her phone (the sentence where every part is hard, but wow if we can
do it). And I hope we eventually choose user traffic goals for China,
because the scale and impact of China's censorship is massive,
unprecedented, and is contributing to a human rights catastrophe.

There are 800 million people on the (censored) Internet in China, over
twice the entire population of the US.

I think it's useful to think about anti-censorship in more than one
light simultaneously (and forgive me if I am obvious here). What are the
technical challenges and goals? What are the overall anticensorship
goals? If we build a useable, secure tool, and people don't use it, are
we meeting our goals? I know that Antonela is focused on integrating
user feedback into the project. As she knows but maybe not everyone
knows, getting user uptake from people in a place like Iran (where a lot
of people used an anti-censorship tool in the past few years) is much
different from China, where according to Berkman-Klein Institute only
2%-3% use one.  

Meanwhile, a million people in China have been rounded up recently and
sent to detention camps, where they are being tortured and beaten.
China's human rights situation is worsening by the day, and censorship
is one of the tent poles that allows this to happen. That's why China
employs and outsources hundreds of thousands of people to censor the
Internet, and has invested a ton of money in machine learning for online
censorship. China's internal security budget is larger than its military
budget, and a lot of that is thought to go to surveillance and
censorship. It's gotten even bigger in the last two years to fund the
camp system.

President Xi has launched a massive propaganda campaign to support his
approach, justifying it as necessary for social stability. Again,
uncensored information is generally out of reach for ~98% of people who
use the Internet. I was surprised to learn that people do *not*
generally use VPNs in China or other tools to allow them to get through
the Great Fire Wall. We probably know people who do, but it turns out
that they are an extreme minority. According to a 2015 survey, only
about 30% of Internet users surveyed even realized they could evade
Great Firewall censorship; a mere 5% had ever tried a VPN. 

Lack of information has real-world consequences in China, as it does in
all censored countries. Chinese people have been prevented from having
uncensored information for a generation, and that also has an effect. 

Few NGOs focus on secure, anti-censorship tools in China; it's powerful
that Tor is working on this. I don't mean to imply that other countries
with horrific censorship problems aren't important; they are. Or that we
will miraculously free people in China if our anti-censorship project
works. Who knows what will happen? But censorship is at scale in China
and there are currently no secure tools to compete with it. So I hope we
include goals for China in the project.  

Joined the UX team, which is awesome,

Katie :)

ps: There's much to read about censorship in China, but to paint the
picture, a good place to start is here: the recently released report on
online rights by Freedom House. They name China the "Worst abuser of
Internet freedom in 2018."
(The US gets bad grades, but not that bad). The report briefly notes
that many of the Uyghurs who are being rounded up are caught because of
their online activity opposing the program roundng them up.

Also the China-specific page:

New York Times on censorship and young people in China:

Internet users in China:
(this is a small sample of the crazy bad things that are happening)

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