[tor-project] OONI Monthly Report: April 2023


This email shares OONI’s monthly report for April 2023.

# OONI Monthly Report: April 2023

Throughout April 2023, the OONI team worked on the following sprints:

  • Sprint 88 (27th March - 9 April 2023)
  • Sprint 89 (10th - 23 April 2023)

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

Highlights are shared in this report below.

## New partnerships

We are excited to have formed 2 new partnerships!

Specifically, OONI established partnerships with the following digital rights organizations:

The goal of the partnerships is to collaborate on the study of internet censorship (in Russia and Iran), and we published dedicated partner pages (provided above) to highlight their important work.

## Published report on the blocking of Telegram in Brazil

We published a new report documenting the blocking of Telegram in Brazil.

The report is available here: https://ooni.org/post/2023-brazil-telegram/

OONI data shows that some ISPs in Brazil immediately complied with the federal judge’s decision to suspend Telegram, as the blocking of Telegram started on 26th April 2023 (same day as the judge’s decision). However, the block was not implemented by all ISPs in Brazil, nor was it implemented in the same way.

OONI data shows that some ISPs blocked access to all tested Telegram endpoints, while others only blocked some of them. This suggests lack of coordination between providers, and that each ISP implemented the block autonomously.

Our Brazilian partner, Coding Rights, published a translated version of the report: https://codingrights.org/library-item/brasil-dados-da-ooni-sobre-o-bloqueio-do-telegram/

## Published report on throttling of news media in Kazakhstan

We published a new research report documenting the throttling of news media websites in Kazakhstan. This report documents how OONI data can be used to investigate and document cases of throttling.

The report is available here: https://ooni.org/post/2023-throttling-kz-elections/

In our report, we analyze the ongoing throttling of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Kazakhstan’s service websites in Kazakh and Russian (www.azattyq.org and rus.azattyq.org), which started on 27th September 2022. We also document the temporary throttling of Current Time TV during Kazakhstan’s 2022 presidential election. OONI data shows the ongoing throttling of RFE/RL Kazakhstan’s service websites on most tested Kazakh providers, while Current Time TV was mainly throttled on AS9198 (JSC Kazakhtelecom).

Our report received the following press coverage:

## OONI Probe Mobile

Throughout April 2023, we worked on OONI Probe Mobile bug fixing and release engineering.

Specifically, we worked on the following bug fixes:

We also worked on the following release engineering:

## OONI Probe CLI

In April 2023, we:

## OONI Run

As part of our work on improving OONI Run (https://run.ooni.io/), we understood that the OONI Run v2 and the richer testing input designs should be mutually compatible to reduce the overall complexity. We therefore started sketching out a prototype check-in API implementation that allows these two designs to interoperate (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2445). This is further discussed below (section on richer testing input).

We also started updating the frontend application in preparation for upcoming UI changes. This work included migrating the codebase to TypeScript (https://github.com/ooni/run/pull/128) and adding basic end-to-end tests (https://github.com/ooni/run/pull/129).

## Expanding OONI’s testing model to support richer testing input

In April 2023, we continued working towards a design document (https://github.com/ooni/ooni.org/issues/1292) for richer testing inputs and we wrote a prototype (https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/pull/1130) implementing some of the ideas in the design document. We realized that the name “input” is often associated with the string we pass to experiments. We therefore considered introducing the concept of “target” to describe a piece of richer input, and we started working on a glossary defining terms used in the probe implementation.

We also recognized that richer input and OONI Run v2 depend on each other (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2445). The future check-in v2 API serving the richer input to the probes could also serve OONI Run v2 descriptors. This realization means that we need to ensure that the richer input design and the OONI Run v2 design are mutually compatible.

We implemented an experimental version of the check-in API to support richer testing input (https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/658).

## Creating a methodology for measuring throttling

As part of our research on the throttling of news media websites in Kazakhstan (https://ooni.org/post/2023-throttling-kz-elections/), we applied our methods for measuring and evaluating cases of throttling. The report that we produced documents how OONI data can be analyzed to investigate cases of throttling. Specifically, our report documents how we analyzed TLS handshake data from the OONI Probe Web Connectivity measurements (collected from Kazakhstan). To perform this analysis, we used the OONI data analysis tool (https://github.com/ooni/data).

## OONI backend

We extracted API specs into a JSON file (https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/655), we ran experiments around STUN reachability, and we started moving issues from the old API and pipeline repositories on GitHub to the backend repository. We also deployed and configured Vector on our monitoring host to centralize the log management and implement log analysis.

We detected a sudden drop in incoming measurements from the Android probe due to a bug in version 3.8.0, and we created internal dashboards for investigation. We also investigated an issue that incorrectly flagged Signal measurements as failed.

## OONI Explorer

In April 2023, we implemented an API entry point to fetch the measurement metadata and body by measurement_uid. This will allow OONI Explorer users to access every measurement even when two different measurements share the same report ID and URL (https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/656). Along with the backend changes, we also added a new measurement page that requests the measurement based on the measurement_uid and redirects from the legacy page that requires the report ID and URL (https://github.com/ooni/explorer/pull/850).

## Creating a Social Media Censorship Alert System

In April 2023, we made progress on the event detector developed for the new Social Media Censorship Alert System. As part of our work on social media blocking detection, we switched to using the Pandas library and worked on bug fixes and blocking detection improvements.

This work is documented through the following pull request: https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/651

## Automating censorship detection and characterization based on OONI measurements

In April 2023, we made progress on automating the detection and characterization of censorship based on OONI measurements.

Specifically, we carried out the following activities:

## Community use of OONI data

### Sinar Project’s report on censorship monitoring during Malaysia’s 2022 elections

Leading up to and during Malaysia’s 2022 elections, Sinar Project coordinated an OONI measurement campaign to monitor potential censorship events (https://sinarproject.org/digital-rights/measuring-and-detecting-network-interference/ge15).

Based on the analysis of OONI data collected during Malaysia’s 2022 elections, Sinar Project published a report, documenting their findings. Their report is available here: https://imap.sinarproject.org/news/15th-malaysian-general-elections-internet-censorship-monitoring

### Article about using OONI Probe in Turkmenistan

Progres, an online non-profit journal, published an article about OONI in Turkmen. This article describes OONI Probe, explaining how people in Turkmenistan could use the tool to document internet censorship. The article is available here: https://progres.online/sowatly/name-ucin-web-sahypalar-acylmayar/

## Community activities

### OONI workshop at the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF) 2023 in Kenya

OONI’s Elizaveta traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, to participate in the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF) 2023 organized by Paradigm Initiative. Information about the event is available here: https://drif.paradigmhq.org/

On 13th April 2023, Elizaveta facilitated an OONI workshop (“Tracking internet censorship: how to coordinate, document and investigate network interference in your country”) as part of the event. Information about the workshop is available here: https://drif.paradigmhq.org/stec_event/open-observatory-of-network-interference/

### OONI MAT demo for Freedom House researchers

On 17th April 2023, OONI’s Maria provided a live demo of the Measurement Aggregation Toolkit (MAT) for Freedom House researchers.

Through this session, Maria shared how researchers can use the MAT (https://explorer.ooni.org/chart/mat) to track (and visualize) internet censorship around the world based on real-time OONI data, and use the platform to answer a variety of research questions. The goal of this session was to enable Freedom House researchers to make use of OONI data, increasing the use of OONI data as part of the annual Freedom on the Net reports (https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net).

### Presentation of Iran research to the EU High Level Group on Internet Governance

On 26th April 2023, OONI’s Maria joined IODA and ISOC to present the findings from our technical multi-stakeholder research report on censorship events in Iran (https://ooni.org/post/2022-iran-technical-multistakeholder-report/) to EU Member States at the morning session (open stakeholder session) of the High Level Group on Internet Governance (HLIG).

As part of this presentation, Maria shared OONI censorship findings involving the blocking of encrypted DNS, instant messaging and social media platforms, app stores, browser extension repositories, and circumvention tools in Iran.

### OONI hackathon at Internet Without Borders conference in Berlin

Between 28th-30th April 2023, the Internet Without Borders conference was held in Berlin (https://internetborders.net/blog/2023/05/01/berlin-report/). As part of this event, Ain Ghazal (OONI research fellow) facilitated an OONI hackathon that involved developing a VPN measurement research methodology for Russia and the occupied territories of Ukraine.

### OONI Community Meeting

On 25th April 2023, we hosted the monthly OONI Community Meeting on our Slack channel (https://slack.ooni.org/), during which we discussed the following topics:

  1. Updates from the OONI team.

  2. Community feedback for improving OONI tools (such as OONI Probe feature requests).

  3. Using OONI Probe to measure internet connectivity shutdowns.

  4. Recording automated testing as a signal for identifying internet outages.

## Measurement coverage

In April 2023, 53,140,981 OONI Probe measurements were collected from 3,003 networks in 166 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.