Chinese Internet Censorship Index

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve been working on part of the Uncensor [site no longer available] project for Amnesty International Australia.

Well, the main feature I’ve been working is partially live now – so I have something to point to :) – and given today is the Day of protest [site no longer available] it seems fitting that I should talk a little bit more about the project.


The Chinese Internet Censorship Index [site no longer available] (or the short version: CICI – pron. chi-chi) is a symbolic visual representation of the level of internet censorship in China at any time. It collects data about sites that have been reported as blocked and presents them as a pseudo “stock index” – if the index is up, it means that more sites are accessible, down means more sites are blocked.

I was responsible for defining the methodology (some of which is outlined in a PDF [266 KB] on the site [site no longer available]) and building the data collection tools for the index. I also built some of the registration features, integrated the site with my favourite email management tool, Campaign Monitor, and a REST+JSON API to support the Flash visualisation and an AJAX testing application (more on that in a sec).

For the technically inclined – i.e. the folks for whom all those acronyms actually mean something ;) – all the components were developed in Django (a Python-based framework).

Getting the data

Data for the index is collected by testing sites via proxies that are hosted within China, and also via the in-browser testing application that volunteers can run from within China. We have some tricks up our sleeve for ensuring that the test app isn’t blocked for participants – so you if happen to be visiting China in a period around the Olympics, you may want to register as a CICI tester [site no longer available].

The hope is that by testing in the lead-up to, during and after the Olympics in August, we can evaluate if the Chinese government lives up to its promises about lifting the measures of internet censorship that have become known as the Great Firewall of China.

Sites will be added to the index over time, as they are reported (in places like the Twitter #gfwlist). My personal hope is that the data collected may also help initiatives like the Open Internet Initiative – but we’ll see about that in due course…

Anyways – check it out and spread the word. I’m a big fan of Amnesty and the campaign, and I’m stoked to have been able to participate. I hope that the campaign can continue to build in the coming weeks and play a role in lifting internet repression in China.