Business 2.0

Google reconsidering China

This is unexpected, positive news from Google (via Web Directions South):

have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

The full article hints at the reasons for the change in perspective.

As someone who is committed to a free and open internet, and also was worked with Amnesty International Australia on their “Uncensor” campaign in the lead-up to the 2007 Olympics, I am very heartened and inspired by Google’s decision.

It is also good to know that Google is actively campaigning in Australia to stop the censoring of internet access here.

Housekeeping, NGOs & Nonprofits, Work

Australia Tibet Council

Zumio is proud to support the Australia Tibet Council (ATC).

I feel truly blessed that the last four donations I’ve made are to organisations I have a personal connection with through friends and colleagues. ATC is no different – my long-time friend Ashley Brown and his wife Tahne are very heavily involved with the organisation.

Both they and the volunteers and staff at ATC have done a tremendous amount of work to increase awareness of Tibetan culture in Australia, including participating in the organisation of visits by the Dalai Lama, as well as advocating for the human rights and democratic freedoms of the Tibetan people.

This included last years team up with GetUp on the Olympic Silence is not Golden campaign.

Please consider supporting ATC so that they can continue their good work.

For those that don’t already know, each quarter Zumio donates 1% of nett profit before tax to progressive causes. ATC is the recipient for the Oct-Dec 2008 quarter.

Work

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.

CICI

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.

NGOs & Nonprofits, Social media & networking

Uncensor Day of Protest

Uncensor Day of Protest screenshot example

The Uncensor campaign recently launched an online protest [site no longer available] to take place on 30 July.

The action page contains instructions on how to add a small bit of code to your blog theme to participate in the protest – which will activate automatically on 30 July.

The page explains in more detail and includes a way of previewing what your blog will look like on the day (the screenshot above shows the banner on the Amnesty website).

Disclosure: I’m working on the Uncensor project, but this action is not my work. My bit will be launched real soon now :)

NGOs & Nonprofits

Uncensor badges

Amnesty’s Uncensor campaign has just launched some new badges, related to the Search for Freedom functionality on the campaign site:

The badges, which feature the campaign “mascot” Nuwa, allow visitors to run a search which shows the discrepancies between the censored searches available to Chinese netizens and the uncensored versions across a variety of sites.

Disclosure: although I’ve not worked on the badges component, I am working on other functionality for the Uncensor campaign site.