CSE 594 - Internet Censorship (Spring 2014)

Instructor: Phillipa Gill
Time: MW *8:30-9:50* New Time!
Location: CS2114 *New location*
Class discussion forum: Piazza. Sign up is mandatory!



This course will cover topics related to the broad issue of ``Internet censorship''. This will include information controls such as traffic differentiation, surveillance, and blocking of content. Tentative list of topics:


There is no required textbook for the course. Readings will be posted with the associated lectures.


The course will assume basic familiarity with networking protocols (e.g., TCP, HTTP). The material is appropriate for students that have previously taken the graduate networking course, or equivalent. Experience in network measurement or having taken CS592 Internet Measurement will be an asset but is not required.



1/27/2014Introduction, History of CensorshipHistorical reading
1/29/2014 Censorship Methods and Measurement TechniquesCountry-Wide Outages, Pakistan Hijack, High level overview of censorship technology
2/3/2014Class cancelled because of weatherCensorship Methods and Measurement Techniques
2/5/2014Class cancelled because of weatherCensorship Methods and Measurement Techniques
2/10/2014Censorship Methods and Measurement TechniquesNDSS2009, Ignoring
2/12/2014Censorship Methods and Measurement TechniquesCollateral damage (DNS), Hold-On
2/17/2014Censorship Methods and Measurement TechniquesWeb trip-wires
2/19/2014Challenges of Measuring Internet CensorshipBurnett2013, Wright2011,SpookyScan, SpookyScan-extended
2/24/2014Project Proposal DueTraffic DifferentiationGlasnost
2/26/2014Measurement Frameworks/PlatformsONI, OONI, Internet Censorship Lab,Censmon, Verkamp2012
3/3/2014Case Study: IranIran1, Iran2, Iran3, ONI report, Psiphon report
3/5/2014Case Study: China ConceptDoppler, ONI report, Pam2011,
3/10/2014Case Study: PakistanPakistan Hijack, Pakistan Web censorship, ONI report, Netsweeper in Pakistan
3/12/2014Censorship of Online Social NetworksChina-Chats Project, Weibo-COSN13, Velocity,Twitter Spam, Social Spam
3/17/2014No class: Spring recess.
3/19/2014No class: Spring recess.
3/24/2014ClassMidterm presentations
3/26/2014ClassNews Presentation
3/31/2014 No class: Phillipa traveling
4/2/2014News presentations
4/7/2014Fingerprinting censorship productsDalek, Smartfilter blog post, Planet Blue Coat
4/9/2014Anonymization ToolsOnion Routing, Tor
4/14/2014Anonymization ToolsAqua,Dissent
4/16/2014CircumventionFreeWave, SkypeMorph
4/21/2014CircumventionParrot is Dead, Cover your ACKs
4/23/2014 No class: Phillipa traveling
4/28/2014CircumventionTelex, Cirripede
4/30/2014ClassNews Presentation
5/5/2014ClassFinal presentations
5/7/2014ClassFinal presentations
5/14/2014Final project report and survey papers are due.


Students are expected to actively participate in class discussions and keep up with the assigned readings. Bonus participation marks may be awarded for students who maintain a blog summarizing the in class discussions. Post a link to your blog on Piazza if you are planning to do this.

Internet in the News Presentation

Each student is expected to give a 15 minute presentation on a topic related to information controls on the Internet that has recently appeared in the popular news, the technical press, blogs, or advocacy Web sites (e.g., the EFF). For this assignment information controls is broadly defined (e.g., topics such as legislation related to the Internet such as SOPA/PIPA, NSA surveillance, or news about international censorship). Presentation should be accompanied by a slide presentation.

Presentation should cover the issues mentioned in the news story, but also explain the underlying technical issues. For example, news about NSA surveillance should include technical details of how the surveillance has been implemented and cover the relevant technical topics. This will require you to dig deeper than what is presented in the news article.

There are two lectures scheduled for the presentation of news stories. One at the mid-way and one near the end of the course. You can use your judgement about which of these slots will work best for you. Please sign up to present (on Piazza) at least 2 weeks before your desired presentation day and plan to attend office hours the week before your presentation to discuss the topic and slides. Presentation slots will be assigned on a first-come-first-served basis. Also, multiple presentations of the same topic will not be permitted. So if you really want to present a topic sign up early.

Survey Paper

Students should pick 3-5 papers either from the suggested readings or by doing a search of related articles (e.g., using Google Scholar) on a topic of interest to them in the area of information controls on the Internet. If you are uncertain about the suitability of your readings please consult with the professor. After reading these papers prepare a survey document describing the papers and how they relate to each other. Relative strengths and weaknesses of the papers should be discussed as well as ideas for future work based on the papers. The document should be 3-4 pages following the formatting guidelines set out here. The papers may be related to your project topic (but do not need to be) and material from this assignment can be included in your final project write up.


Students are expected to undertake a semester long project related to material presented in the course. You are encouraged to work with a partner on the project. A list of potential topics will be posted on the Piazza site or students may come up with their own project in discussion with the professor. Milestones for the project are: