Researcher (China focus)

at OpenITP in China: Other

The Open Internet Tools Project (OpenITP) seeks a well-organized, persistent researcher with investigative skills for a part-time consulting contract lasting approximately 4 months, to research and report on the state of circumvention technology usage in Asia, concentrating on mainland China. Pay will be based on experience. The research will likely involve travel to Asia, with expenses reimbursed.

By “circumvention technology”, we mean anti-censorship and anti-surveillance tools, such as proxy routing software (to enable users to reach censored web sites), anonymity software and services (to protect against surveillance and identification), etc.

The deliverables are a report on circumvention technology usage in China (and other Asian countries if it can be done opportunistically), and a report on the methods used to gather and analyze the information, so that the research can be expanded at later dates to other countries (probably first in Asia, then elsewhere). The deliverables will be released publicly under open copyright licenses, although personally identifying information about confidential sources will of course be kept out. Part of the work will involve vetting the research and reporting methods to ensure that informants’ anonymity is properly protected.

We anticipate that the work will divide naturally into two stages: first, gathering qualitative and anecdotal data, then using that to guide the design and conduct of a quantitative survey.

The ideal candidate will have spoken and written proficiency in one or more of the site country languages as well as English, familiarity with modern communications tools (e.g., comfortable using online chat, instant messaging, etc.), and an understanding of how cultural factors can affect the ways different people use communications tools. The candidate should also have either experience with or a willingness to learn about circumvention technologies. The candidate must be a flexible, self-motivated person who works well without daily management, and communicates clearly.


Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcasts news and information in nine native Asian languages to listeners who do not have access to full and free news media. The purpose of RFA is to provide a forum for a variety of opinions and voices from within these Asian countries. Radio Free Asia’s next generation freedom2connect program is designed to ensure secure communication tools exist for millions of individuals whose online interactions are being monitored or obstructed by repressive governments.

The Open Internet Tools Project (OpenITP) supports and incubates a collection of free and open source projects that enable anonymous, secure, reliable, and unrestricted communication on the Internet. Its goal is to enable people to talk directly to each other without being censored, surveilled or restricted. OpenITP works to make its projects more accessible to both users and developers, building collaborative, sustainable tools that enhance whole categories of communication technology.

RFA and OpenITP are working together to learn which tools are succeeding “on the ground”, which aren’t, and why. Circumvention technology projects that work with OpenITP will be encouraged to use the reports to improve the design and distribution methods of their tools.


  • Communicate with existing organizations that provide training, documentation, and other resources to circumvention technology users in Asia (OpenITP will assist in finding these organizations) to collect data on known problems.
  • Discover which circumvention technologies are most widely used in the region.
  • Where possible, and when risk is minimal, interview and/or observe users of these technologies.
  • Try out the circumvention technologies yourself.
  • Vet methods and potentially publishable materials with other researchers (e.g., people who have served on academic-style Internal Review Boards), to ensure that informants’ anonymity is properly protected.
  • Report in writing on both anecdotal and quantitative evidence about the scenarios in which those technologies are used, and their success/failure at addressing users’ needs.
  • Participate in the editing and updating process upon receiving feedback about the report(s).


The ideal candidate will have the following qualifications:

  • A strong understanding of the value of privacy and free communication, and the threats to them.
  • A willingness to travel
  • Ability to communicate well in written English
  • Reasonable level of comfort with more than one computing environment (e.g., two or more of Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, Ubuntu or other GNU/Linux, etc.)
  • General familiarity and comfort with digital technology from a user perspective: e.g., you may use an iPhone, but are still able to get by if someone hands you an Android phone.
  • Experience interviewing strangers (e.g., as a journalist, anthropologist, etc.)
  • Experience conducting surveys and designing survey techniques
  • Fluency in Mandarin Chinese, possibly in other languages or dialects of mainland China.

Application Process

To apply, please submit a cover letter and resume. Please no emails or phone calls.

Employment is on a contract basis and compensation is commensurate with experience. The New America Foundation is an equal opportunity employer.

Published on 05-09-2012
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