[tor-project] OONI Monthly Report: April 2022


These days we’re primarily supported by the DRL, which is why we do quarterly reporting. That said, we’d like to share monthly updates from the OONI team with the community, hence our April 2022 report shared below. I’ll also follow-up to share our May and June 2022 reports.

# OONI Monthly Report: April 2022

Throughout April 2022, the OONI team worked on the following sprints:

  • Sprint 62 (1st - 10 April 2022)
  • Sprint 63 (11th - 24th April 2022)
  • Sprint 64 (25th April - 30th April 2022)

Our work can be tracked through the various OONI GitHub repositories: https://github.com/ooni

Highlights are shared in this report below.

## Launched the OONI Measurement Aggregation Toolkit (MAT)

We publicly launched OONI’s new Measurement Aggregation Toolkit (MAT): https://explorer.ooni.org/chart/mat

The MAT is a tool that enables the public to create their own custom charts based on aggregate views of real-time OONI data collected from around the world. This tool was built for researchers, journalists, and human rights defenders interested in examining internet censorship around the world.

When examining cases of internet censorship, it’s important to look at many measurements at once (“in aggregate”) in order to identify censorship trends and patterns. The MAT incorporates our data analysis techniques, enabling the public to answer such questions without any data analysis skills, and with the click of a button!

To provide further details about using the MAT and interpreting MAT charts, we wrote and published a blog post: https://ooni.org/post/2022-ooni-mat/

We hope the internet freedom community finds the MAT useful for investigating and responding to internet censorship events around the world.

### Preparing for the MAT launch

In preparation for the public launch of OONI’s Measurement Aggregation Toolkit (MAT), we:

## OONI MAT shows social media blocks in Sri Lanka

OONI’s new Measurement Aggregation Toolkit (MAT) was useful for enabling human rights defenders to corroborate the social media blocks that were reported in Sri Lanka between 2nd to 3rd April 2022.

The following OONI MAT charts (which we shared with the #KeepItOn community) present aggregate views of OONI data, displaying the temporary blocking of social media services in Sri Lanka on 2nd and 3rd April 2022:

By clicking on each of these charts, the public can access the raw OONI measurement data, showing details of how the blocks were implemented and how they vary across ISPs in the country. The links to the above charts are automatically updated with real-time OONI data.

## Circumvention Tool Reachability Dashboard

We made some improvements to our new Circumvention Tool Reachability Dashboard, which presents OONI findings from the testing of censorship circumvention tools around the world (https://explorer.ooni.org/chart/circumvention). In particular, we added copy that highlights a limitation to the dashboard, while also encouraging users to refer to Tor Metrics and the Psiphon Data Engine (https://github.com/ooni/explorer/issues/726) to gain a more comprehensive understanding of whether circumvention tools work in a country.

## OONI Explorer network-centric views

In April 2022, we worked on implementing network-centric views for OONI Explorer (https://github.com/ooni/explorer/issues/744). The implementation (and subsequent review, feedback, and improvements) is available through the following pull request: https://github.com/ooni/explorer/pull/750

## OONI Probe Mobile

We released OONI Probe iOS 3.6.0: https://github.com/ooni/probe-ios/releases/tag/v3.6.0

This release includes the following improvements:

  • New Tor Snowflake experiment
  • New DNS Check experiment
  • RiseupVPN test temporarily disabled
  • Links to OONI blog posts and research reports
  • User-initiated tests start off minimized
  • Improved progress bar and test runtime counter
  • Measurement engine synced with OONI Probe CLI 3.14
  • Bug fixes and improvements

We followed-up with an OONI Probe iOS 3.6.1 release (https://github.com/ooni/probe-ios/releases/tag/v3.6.1) with bug fixes and improvements.

Notably, we set up a Huawei AppGallery account, where we released the OONI Probe Android app (https://appgallery.huawei.com/app/C105911849).

We also worked on:

## Expanding censorship measurement methodologies

Our goal is to ensure that our new experiments (particularly Websteps, our new experiment for measuring website blocking) are effective in some of the most censored environments and meet community needs. Following several rounds of community feedback, we developed our latest prototype (“Websteps winter edition”) in March 2022.

In April 2022, we started discussing the “Websteps winter edition” (https://github.com/bassosimone/websteps-illustrated/) prototype with community members, we collected their feedback, and we drafted plans for incorporating changes developed in this prototype inside of ooniprobe.

We also read the “Understanding the Practices of Global Censorship through
Accurate, End-to-End Measurements” paper (https://shhaos.github.io/papers/sigmetrics22.pdf) and we started experimenting with its methodologies to understand how to integrate them into ooniprobe (https://github.com/bassosimone/websteps-illustrated/pull/2).

## Building a web platform for updating test lists

We continued to make progress towards launching our new web platform for updating test lists (https://test-lists.ooni.org/).

Specifically, we made improvements related to:

We also discussed some approaches that would allow us to support multiple edits after the changes have been submitted, and we documented how this can be implemented in the backend (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/588).

## OONI backend

### Migration to the Clickhouse database

We continued to work on various tasks related to the ongoing migration to an OLAP database that delivers much better performance and enables new functionalities like the MAT.
We migrated multiple API calls to the host running the new database and we improved monitoring. This is a long-running process.

### Reprocessing legacy measurements

OONI measurements collected before 2021 have been reprocessed to improve data quality and to ensure all measurements are now reachable from OONI Explorer. This is also a long-running process.

### URL prioritization

The “reactive” URL prioritization system is designed to ensure acceptable and fair coverage of URLs over time. But based on community feedback (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/582), we realized that the existing implementation could allow a manually-run probe to over-measure a given URL and prevent other probes from measuring this URL at all on a national level. We therefore investigated how we can change the implementation of our URL prioritization algorithm to ensure that per-ASN testing coverage does not impact countrywide testing coverage of a URL. Based on our research, we wrote an internal design document for improving our URL prioritization system.

### Other operations

We added support for STUN reachability tests in the API search function. We improved NTP dashboards and monitoring, fixed IPv6 and ICMP filtering on backend hosts, and we moved the test-helper rotation tool to use Debian 11 and fixed a bug. We also looked into the price/performance ratio on new hosts.

## OONI data analysis tool

To enable the analysis of raw OONI measurements, we built a tool (“oonidata”) which supports downloading raw OONI data in batch (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/581). In April 2022, we published a version of oonidata on pypi (https://pypi.org/project/oonidata/).

## Preparing a security audit

We aim to receive a security audit for several OONI software components: OONI API accounts, OONI Probe Web, OONI Probe engine. To this end, we coordinated with several security companies to discuss audit requirements and receive quotes.

## Filmed OONI training course for Advocacy Assembly project

In previous months, we completed the creation of all materials for the online OONI training course for Small Media’s Advocacy Assembly project (https://www.advocacyassembly.org/).

In April 2022, OONI’s Maria traveled to London to record 8 direct-to-camera videos at a studio (with Small Media staff) for the online OONI training course.

In particular, this involved the filming of the following videos:

  • Introduction to course
  • What is internet censorship?
  • The problem of internet censorship
  • What is OONI Probe?
  • Interpreting OONI data
  • What is OONI Explorer?
  • Looking at OONI data in aggregate
  • Conclusion

Small Media aims to launch the online OONI training course over the next months.

## ISOC Pulse project on Internet shutdowns

OONI is a data partner for the Internet Society (ISOC) Pulse project on Internet shutdowns (https://pulse.internetsociety.org/partners). We aim to contribute OONI data (along with relevant charts and information) for all the “content blocking” events listed on the ISOC Pulse shutdowns timeline (https://pulse.internetsociety.org/shutdowns).

We created OONI reports (including OONI data, charts, and relevant interpretation of the findings) for the following 4 “content blocking” entries listed in the ISOC Pulse shutdown timeline:

We shared our reports with ISOC to be listed under the “Data and Analysis” section of relevant ISOC Pulse shutdown entries.

## Report for Azerbaijan Internet Watch

In support of our partner, Azerbaijan Internet Watch (https://ooni.org/partners/azerbaijan-internet-watch/), we analyzed OONI measurements collected from Azerbaijan between January 2022 to March 2022. Based on our analysis, we produced charts and wrote a report interpreting the findings, which we shared with Azerbaijan Internet Watch.

## Test list updates

In April 2022, we contributed a few updates to the Citizen Lab test lists (https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/pull/956, https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/pull/962, https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/pull/957), and we reviewed and merged several test list pull requests opened by community members (https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/issues?page=3&q=is%3Aclosed).

## Job opening for bookkeeper

In collaboration with the Hermes Center (OONI’s current fiscal sponsor), we published a job opening for hiring a new bookkeeper: https://www.hermescenter.org/it/cerchiamo-un-una-consulente-contabile-e-amministrativo/

Throughout April 2022, we worked on managing and reviewing applications, following up with candidates, and interviewing shortlisted candidates for the position.

## OONI featured in Dataplane.org newsletter

OONI was among the measurement platforms (along with Censored Planet, RIPE Atlas, and NLNOG Ring) discussed in Dataplane.org’s April 2022 newsletter: https://dataplane.substack.com/p/sensor-strategy-monitoring-platforms

## Notable community use of OONI Probe and OONI data

### Access Now’s 2021 Annual KeepItOn Report

Access Now published their 2021 Annual #KeepItOn campaign Report (“The Return Of Digital
Authoritarianism: Internet shutdowns in 2021”): https://www.accessnow.org/cms/assets/uploads/2022/04/2021-KeepItOn-Report-1.pdf

This report makes use of OONI data, citing OONI research reports (https://ooni.org/reports) and OONI data from OONI Explorer (https://explorer.ooni.org/).

### VEsinFiltro’s 2021 Annual Report

In April 2022, our Venezuelan partner, VEsinFiltro, published their 2021 Annual Report on digital rights and internet censorship in Venezuela: https://vesinfiltro.com/noticias/2021_annual_report/

In the Methodology section of their report, VEsinFiltro describe that they measured internet blocks in Venezuela through the use of OONI Probe and OONI data.

## Community activities

### Mozilla Twitter Space on network outages

On 5th April 2022, OONI’s Maria participated as a speaker on Mozilla’s Twitter Space discussion on network outages: https://twitter.com/mozilla/status/1511091238774190085

As part of her participation, Maria explained OONI’s methods and discussed how OONI had previously analyzed Mozilla telemetry (in collaboration with IODA) to investigate internet shutdowns (https://ooni.org/post/2021-investigating-internet-shutdowns-mozilla-telemetry/). The recording was available here: https://twitter.com/i/spaces/1MnxnkayOXEKO

### OONI data analysis lecture for Georgia Tech students

On 12th April 2022, OONI’s Arturo was invited by IODA (https://ioda.inetintel.cc.gatech.edu/) to give a lecture to Georgia Tech computer science students on analyzing OONI data to investigate internet censorship. In preparation for this lecture, Arturo prepared a Jupyter notebook with exercises for the students.

### OONI Community Meeting

On 19th April 2022, we hosted the monthly OONI Community Meeting on our Slack channel (https://slack.ooni.org/), during which we discussed the following topics:

  1. New launch: OONI Measurement Aggregation Toolkit (MAT)

  2. New test list web platform (https://test-lists.ooni.org/): Community feedback and next steps

  3. Tweaking OONI’s URL prioritization algorithm to ensure counts per ASN (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/582)

  4. Inconsistent measurement counts returned by API endpoints (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/583)

## Userbase

In April 2022, 41,200,730 OONI Probe measurements were collected from 3,372 AS networks in 162 countries around the world.

This information can also be found through our measurement stats on OONI Explorer (see chart on “monthly coverage worldwide”): https://explorer.ooni.org/

~ OONI team.