Cyber Stewards Network Partner Tibet Action Institute has released a report titled “Erasing Tibet: Censorship on Chinese Video Sharing Site Youku,” which documents censorship on Youku, as well as the broader trend of China-based social media platforms being required to follow regulations on content filtering. Careful testing revealed that video content related to Tibetan culture and the Dalai Lama were blocked, including content that made use of the Tibetan language.
Lobsang Gyatso Sither, who conducted the research with the support of the Citizen Lab, explained that the report was part of an effort to give Tibetans the tools to express their opinions, despite systematic censorship efforts against the community.
Read the full report.
Cyber Stewards Network partner Tibet Action Institute (TAI) has launched a new program aimed at getting ordinary users of mobile and online technology in Tibet to adopt safe habits to prevent malware and viral attacks. The Cyber Superhero website contains information that is particularly relevant for Tibetans living in exile, whose online and mobile communications with friends and family in Tibet are often the subject of security intrusions and malware attacks by Chinese government officials. A video summarizing the Cyber Super Hero campaign’s initiatives can be viewed here.
The website launched by TAI features simple tips such as updating computer software, using strong, unique passwords, and HTTPS and 2-step verification for online services. It warns against using chat software WeChat, known to store communications records that are then accessed by the Chinese government. Other mobile security tips include using prepaid SIM cards in order to avoid identification of the user, as well as removing the battery of the phone when not in use.
China has allegedly hacked several activist websites, as well as that of the Dalai Lama and others expressing nationalist opinions, all in an effort to obtain the information of readers accessing the sites. The information that is obtained is often used to make arrests for sharing communications considered subversive to the Chinese government. The Citizen Lab’s Information Warfare Monitor project’s report, titled “Shadows in the Cloud: Investigating Cyber Espionage 2.0,” documented a complex ecosystem of cyber espionage that systematically targeted and compromised computer systems in India, the Offices of the Dalai Lama, the United Nations, and several other countries.
In addition, the Citizen Lab published reports titled “Permission to Spy: An Analysis of Android Malware Targeting Tibetans” and “Surtr: Malware Family Targeting the Tibetan Community,” which is part of a series documenting the use of information operations against Tibetans and others who advocate for Tibetan rights and freedoms. An analysis of mobile messaging applications privacy standards was also conducted by the Citizen Lab in a report titled “Asia Chats: Analyzing Information Controls and Privacy in Asian Messaging Applications.”
On 12 June 2013, the Tibet Action Institute (TAI) hosted an event in Dharamsala, India, as part of their Safe Travels Online campaign.
The event began Cyber Steward and TAI Field Coordinator Lobsang Gyatso Sither and TAI staff explaining security concepts and the use of security tools to members of the Tibetan community, while distributing awareness raising materials and information on secure apps.
Citizen Lab Research Manager Masashi Crete-Nishihata gave a presentation on the Lab’s Targeted Threats research and what they have learned about online threats targeting the Tibetan community. Lhadon Thetong, the director of the Tibet Action Institute, then gave a talk on the importance of digital security, activism and action in the Tibetan community in the context of the movement and struggle for independence. Both talks were translated live in Tibetan and followed by a Q&A session.
The event was covered widely by the Tibetan media, such as Voice of America: Kunleng News (Tibetan) (starting from 11:28 minute mark), Voice of America Radio (Tibetan), Radio Free Asia (Tibetan) (starting from 19:53 minute mark), Voice of Tibet Radio (starting from 24:00 minute mark), Tibet Times (Tibetan), and Phayul (English). In addition, Dechen Pemba, Editor of High Peaks Pure Earth and author for Global Voices who has advised TAI on education programs, wrote an article on promoting digital security awareness among Tibetans who live in exile using both online and offline methods.