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PhD Student Wins Scholarship to Study Internet Censorship

Abbas razaghpanah
Abbas Razaghpanah (center) with Professor Phillipa Gill and Computer Science Chair Arie Kaufman at Computer Science Technology Day, where Abbas won Best Poster Award.

Abbas Razaghpanah, a PhD candidate in computer science at Stony Brook University, was awarded an Open Technology Fund Fellowship, which provides support for scholars who want to work on projects related to “information controls, specifically repressive Internet censorship and surveillance.”

Razaghpanah, whose advisor is Computer Science Professor Phillipa Gill, worked remotely with researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab on his Internet censorship measurement project for about one year. The team he worked with included social and computer scientists involved with advocacy in Internet censorships, online information controls and online surveillance.

At Stony Brook, Razaghpanah and his team have been developing ICLab, a research platform that allows scientists to study Internet censorship on a global scale. As part of the fellowship, Razaghpanah will now have the opportunity to work directly with the researchers at the University of Toronto at their Citizen‘s Lab for three months.

“This platform will help Citizen Lab’s researchers conduct experiments at scale and gather results from the field more consistently and with more ease,” Razaghpanah said. “Collaborating with Citizen Lab will allow us to use their domain knowledge in areas where they suspect censorship is happening so that we can focus our measurement efforts and studies.”

“I am very proud of all Abbas has done at Stony Brook, and I know he will continue to be successful in the fellowship,” said Professor Gill. “He is a very motivated student who will use the opportunity to visit the Citizen Lab to its fullest potential to bring our vision of ICLab into practice.”

Razaghpanah, whose research interests include computer networks and network measurement, said, “I believe in freedom of information and the right to freely access the Internet. I hope to be able to use my research to advocate for free and unrestricted access to the Internet. Measuring Internet interference and censorship will certainly help realize this ambition by bringing the issue to light and giving us a better understanding of how censors work, which in turn will aid researchers in developing ways of circumventing Internet censorship.”

“I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Phillipa Gill, whose guidance and support greatly helped me secure this fellowship,” Razaghpanah added.

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