[tor-project] OONI Monthly Report: August 2023


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

# OONI Monthly Report: August 2023

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

  • Sprint 97 (1st - 13th August 2023)
  • Sprint 98 (14th -27th August 2023)

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

Highlights are shared in this report below.

## New Project Manager

In August 2023, we hired an OONI Project Manager! We are thrilled that Jessie Bonisteel has joined our team.

As OONI’s new Project Manager, Jessie will help ensure that our projects are on track, supporting a global community measuring and fighting internet censorship.

## New partnerships

We are excited to have formed new partnerships!

In August 2023, we formed partnerships with:

## Published research report on censorship events in Senegal

In collaboration with Cloudflare, Access Now and Laura Schwartz-Henderson, we published a research report documenting the social media blocks and network outages in Senegal over the past 2 months.

Our report is available here: https://ooni.org/post/2023-senegal-social-media-blocks/

Amid political unrest in Senegal, OONI data shows:

  • Blocking of WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube between 1st-7th June 2023
  • Temporary blocking of TikTok between 5th-7th June 2023
  • Ongoing blocking of Telegram Web (since 1st June 2023)

## Published blog post about IMC hackathon

In collaboration with Internet Society (ISOC), M-Lab and Censored Planet, we’ll be hosting a hackathon on “Network Interference using Open Data” at the upcoming Internet Measurement Conference (IMC) in Montreal, Canada, in October 2023.

To encourage participation, we published a blog post about the hackathon: https://ooni.org/post/2023-imc-hackathon/

## OONI Probe Mobile

In August 2023, we released OONI Probe Android 3.8.3 (https://github.com/ooni/probe-android/releases/tag/v3.8.3). This release includes the latest version of OONI Probe CLI, bug fixes, and a setting that enables users to easily enable and disable all website categories (which was a community feature request).

We also continued to make updates and improvements to the “News Media Scan” Android app that we have been developing in collaboration with Deutsche Welle (DW).

## OONI Probe Desktop

In August 2023, we worked on dependency upgrades and subsequent refactoring of the OONI Probe desktop app. The changes involve updated notarization process, and the use of contextBridge which improves the app’s security and UI component updates (https://github.com/ooni/probe-desktop/pull/330).

## Published OONI Probe user guides in Turkish

Thanks to Kaya Zeren, the OONI Probe user guides are now available in Turkish!

The Turkish user guides are available below:

## OONI Run

As part of our work on creating the next generation version of OONI Run (“OONI Run v.2”), we continued working on adding UI support to OONI Probe Android for displaying OONI Run v.2 link descriptors based on the API (https://github.com/ooni/probe-android/pull/582). Specifically, we worked on UI support for translations, the measurement result screen, automated testing of OONI Run v.2 links, and OONI Run link icons (https://github.com/ooni/probe-android/pull/601).

On the backend side, we continued to improve upon the localization versioning of OONI Run v2 by adding an archived flag (https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/699), and we changed the fields type (https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/702). We also wrote internal documentation illustrating the interactions between the UI and the API.

## OONI Probe CLI

In August 2023, we started working towards upgrading users from Web Connectivity v0.4 to v0.5 (also known as “Web Connectivity LTE”: https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/tree/2051a2d330a63cd39d3eb44707f86378de1b079a/internal/experiment/webconnectivitylte).

Web Connectivity LTE attempts to discover more ways in which the tested website is blocked. The two main changes are in the measurement algorithm and in the algorithm used to determine inside OONI Probe whether the tested website was blocked. However, Web Connectivity LTE is still part of the Web Connectivity family of tests and produces a compatible JSON measurement result.

The differences between these two implementations call for drafting a plan for comparing the two implementations and ensuring that Web Connectivity LTE does not introduce regressions under the same censorship conditions. We wrote this plan, which consists of two distinct actions:

  1. We will write an A/B testing tool based on netem that allows us to compare the two implementations under the same censorship conditions (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2525);

  2. We will more actively use the richer testing input functionality implemented in the previous months to ensure that users use Web Connectivity LTE for limited periods of time, following up with what we did in July 2023 for users in Pakistan when investigating measurement failures occurring with Web Connectivity v0.4 (https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/695, https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2499).

By switching users to Web Connectivity LTE for limited periods of time, we aim to collect data that is useful for comparing with similar measurements collected by Web Connectivity v0.4. The results of this analysis, in turn, would inform the development of further A/B tests using netem.

Once we drafted this plan, we started implementing it. The initial work consisted of migrating existing tests using Jafar (the previous QA framework based on iptables) to using netem. We started working towards this direction by splitting and landing a previous prototype, and then converting individual Jafar-based tests to use netem instead. Our progress in this area is available here: https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/compare/a040ad9a4185ba5d104fd2b88f9e69582747c50f…c69444e1376e6f4604081ae32782b8079da4eae8.

We continued to prepare for OONI Probe CLI v3.18.2 and v3.19.0 releases by upgrading the C dependencies (https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/pull/1194) and specifically upgrading OpenSSL (https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/pull/1191).

We also triaged, mitigated and started planning to fix an issue introduced in OONI Probe CLI v3.18.0 that affects the Tor Snowflake experiment on Android devices. The gist of the issue is that upgraded dependencies negatively impacted Snowflake ability to bootstrap on new Android 11+. Further information about this issue is documented here: https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2529

## OONI Explorer

In August 2023, we released OONI Explorer in Vietnamese: https://explorer.ooni.org/vi

We thank the Localization Lab community (https://www.localizationlab.org/) for making OONI Explorer available in many languages, and for their ongoing OONI Explorer localization efforts (https://explore.transifex.com/otf/ooni-explorer/).

We also fixed a bug that prevented users from selecting countries on the OONI Explorer Circumvention Dashboard (https://github.com/ooni/explorer/commit/e38c58aff54ae4418194891e9dcd742e2281a6b1).

## Published screencast for OONI Explorer Search Tool

To enable researchers and human rights defenders to make use of OONI data, we published a screencast for the OONI Explorer Search Tool (https://explorer.ooni.org/search).

The screencast (published on our YouTube channel) is available here: https://youtu.be/7jNFqHH43x8

This screencast provides visual, step-by-step guidance on how to use the OONI Explorer Search Tool to filter OONI measurements and uncover cases of blocking.

## Creating a Censorship Incident Reporting Platform

In August 2023, we continued to work towards building a (new) Censorship Incident Reporting Platform. Specifically, we improved the field validation of the platform (https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/710, https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/707), and we added backend support for a new “short_description” field (https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/711, https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/708).

We now have a testing version of the Censorship Incident Reporting Platform, which we tested internally in an attempt to identify issues and opportunities for improvement. We also worked towards collecting information (and relevant OONI data) for all the censorship reports that we aim to publish with the launch of the platform.

## OONI backend

Following the release of OONI Probe Android 3.8.3, we noticed issues with the Tor Snowflake experiment (causing the app to crash). We therefore added backend support to annotate such measurements as “failed” (https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/704, https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/705) and we reprocessed old measurements.

We annotated Signal experiment measurements from outdated probes (which were resulting in false positives) as “failed” (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/679), and we created an internal dashboard to investigate other possible cases that may be affecting OONI data quality. We also fixed a bug affecting the scoring of vanilla Tor measurements (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/608, https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/706).

We ran a set of tests on the fastpath to measure performance improvements obtained by buffering writes to the database and, notably, we reached a 25x speedup during measurement reprocessing.

Based on community feedback, we added backend support to the API for filtering measurements by different experiment versions (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/615), as well as by software version and engine version (https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/703).

## Automating censorship detection and characterization based on OONI measurements

As part of our participation at the Chaos Communication Camp 2023 (https://events.ccc.de/camp/2023/infos/index.html), we organized and hosted an OONI hackathon where participants were given access to the database used by the OONI data analysis tool (https://github.com/ooni/data). During the hackathon, participants were able to run queries against the database to produce novel analysis of OONI measurements (https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1aCmjqKOVKi2AUe1ZqOljyao9LkAo97CT5I5uPmW4mgo/edit#).

This resulted in the collection of feedback and suggestions on how we can improve our analysis (https://pad.riseup.net/p/hack-ooni-ccc2023-keep).

## OONI data support for Freedom on the Net 2023 reports

Over the last years, we have collaborated with Freedom House researchers on providing relevant OONI data in support of their annual Freedom on the Net reports (https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net).

In August 2023, we received multiple questions and data requests from Freedom House researchers, and we responded by providing relevant OONI data for various country-specific Freedom on the Net 2023 reports.

## Localization of the OONI Outreach Kit

In March 2023, we published the OONI Outreach Kit (https://ooni.org/support/ooni-outreach-kit/) to share OONI resources and materials that can be used as part of OONI community engagement efforts.

In August 2023, we started working towards the localization of the OONI Outreach Kit to enable its use by more communities around the world. We drafted guidelines for the localization of the OONI Outreach Kit, which we shared with translators. In addition to coordinating with translators, we also coordinated with designers to ensure that the design of the Outreach Kit supports RTL layout.

## OONI Community Interviews

We have an “OONI Community Interviews” series on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pam2UQoZ1qM&list=PL1sH9kYR-16nlPlFT-RDBs8O0OiS2N6fJ), where we publish video interviews with OONI community members to highlight their important work, and the ways through which they use OONI tools and data.

In August 2023, we worked on creating several new video interviews with OONI community members. This involved drafting relevant interview questions, filming the interviews, and working with a videographer to edit the footage.

## Planning the OONI Partner Gathering 2024

We are planning to host a 2-day event (“OONI Partner Gathering”) in May 2024, which would bring our international network of partners together to share skills and knowledge around censorship measurement.

We had already done extensive research and planning in previous months, developing a script for a data-driven approach for identifying what could be the best city for the event based on various parameters (visa requirements, cost, travel time, safety index, etc.), researching related logistics, creating a participant list and related budgets.

In August 2023, we made adjustments to our logistical planning and we wrote 2 versions of a Concept Note for the OONI Partner Gathering 2024 as part of our fundraising efforts.

## Planning the OONI Team Meeting 2023

In August 2023, we started working towards organizing our annual OONI Team Meeting: a 3-day event which brings the OONI team together to have in-depth discussions about projects, strategic priorities, team health, and improving roadmaps. This annual meeting is important for our team, given that we do not have a physical office and work remotely from different countries (and continents) throughout the year.

Last year we hosted the 2022 OONI Team Meeting in Rome, but unfortunately some of our team members were not able to join in person due to visa issues. We have therefore decided to host the 2023 OONI Team Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, which has looser visa requirements for all our team members (and which was identified as one of the top “visa-free” locations based on the script that we developed as part of our related research for the OONI Partner Gathering).

In August 2023, we finalized the logistical planning for the 2023 OONI Team Meeting and we started collecting team feedback for the sessions of the meeting.

## Rapid response efforts

### TikTok blocking in Senegal

Following protests over the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmake Sonko, the Senegalese government ordered the blocking of TikTok on 2nd August 2023 (https://twitter.com/AbdouJCisse/status/1686748294888685570).

In response, we shared OONI Probe testing instructions (to ensure the testing of TikTok endpoints) with Senegalese partners, our broader community, and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/OpenObservatory/status/1686775778455830531).

To help boost the testing of TikTok, we also boosted the testing priority for TikTok in Senegal (based on our smart URL list system) and we sent a push notification to OONI Probe users in Senegal (encouraging them to run an OONI Run link for the testing of TikTok endpoints).

As a result, we immediately collected and published data documenting the blocking of TikTok in Senegal on the same day (with a large spike in measurement coverage): https://explorer.ooni.org/chart/mat?probe_cc=SN&since=2023-07-03&until=2023-08-04&time_grain=day&axis_x=measurement_start_day&test_name=web_connectivity&domain=www.tiktok.com

Similarly to the previous blocking of other social media platforms (https://ooni.org/post/2023-senegal-social-media-blocks/), OONI data shows that access to TikTok was blocked by means of TLS interference.

### Telegram blocking in Iraq

On 5th August 2023, Iraq started blocking access to Telegram over personal data concerns. We shared relevant OONI data on Twitter (https://twitter.com/OpenObservatory/status/1688576131157434368), as well as further information with the #KeepItOn advocacy mailing list.

Specifically, OONI data shows that the Telegram block was implemented on several networks in Iraq (https://explorer.ooni.org/chart/mat?probe_cc=IQ&since=2023-07-05&until=2023-08-08&time_grain=day&axis_x=measurement_start_day&axis_y=probe_asn&test_name=telegram), and that they blocked access to both the Telegram mobile app and to Telegram Web. The block appeared to be IP-based, as attempted connections to Telegram endpoints consistently failed.

Kentik published a relevant blog post, citing OONI data: https://www.kentik.com/blog/iraq-blocks-telegram-leaks-blackhole-bgp-routes/

### Grindr blocking in Jordan

On 8th August 2023, Jordan started blocking access to Grindr. We responded by sharing relevant OONI data on the block on Twitter (https://twitter.com/OpenObservatory/status/1689674923520794627). OONI data shows that access to Grindr was blockhttps://twitter.com/OpenObservatory/status/1689674923520794627ed by means of TLS interference on at least 5 networks in Jordan.

### OONI Run testing of The Intercept in Pakistan

Following reports that access to The Intercept may have been blocked in Pakistan, Micah Lee (The Intercept’s Director of Information Security) shared an OONI Run link on Mastodon, encouraging the testing of theintercept.com in Pakistan (https://infosec.exchange/@micahflee/110861931459869851).

We also boosted the testing priority of the website in our backend to help increase relevant measurement coverage. No signs of censorship have been detected so far (https://explorer.ooni.org/chart/mat?probe_cc=PK&since=2023-07-11&until=2023-10-11&time_grain=day&axis_x=measurement_start_day&test_name=web_connectivity&domain=theintercept.com).

## Community use of OONI data

### Sinar Project report on censorship monitoring during Malaysia’s 2023 state elections

Our partner, Sinar Project (https://ooni.org/partners/sinar-project), published a report providing an update on their censorship monitoring efforts during Malaysia’s 2023 state elections. Their report (which is based on OONI data) is available here: https://imap.sinarproject.org/news/internet-censorship-update-internet-censorship-monitoring-and-testing-during-2023-malaysia-state-elections-findings

### Press statement on news media censorship in Malaysia

In August 2023, Geramm (a press freedom movement from Malaysian) published a press statement calling on the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to explain the Internet regulator’s decision to block news websites. This followed the recent blocking of yet another news media website (utusantv.com) in Malaysia.

Their press statement (which cites the use of OONI tools and data) is available here: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid029QVYcUmLt6s8je5zJctUpGfGxKcjBAXWVpGeEQ4efbBVaCMghtdi4nW5BsMvv7bNl&id=100064861291180&mibextid=aE13LE

## Community activities

### Chaos Communication Camp 2023

Between 15th-19th August 2023, OONI’s Arturo and Maria traveled to Germany to attend the Chaos Communication Camp 2023 (CCCamp 2023), one of the largest hacker camps in the world with a digital rights focus. Information about CCCamp 2023 is available here: https://events.ccc.de/camp/2023/infos/index.html

On 18th August 2023, we presented OONI and facilitated an OONI hackathon at CCCamp 2023.

Below we share:

### MAT live demo as part of OCF’s Internet Freedom Meetup webinar

On 23rd August 2023, OONI’s Maria participated in the Open Culture Foundation’s (OCF) monthly Internet Freedom Meetup webinar (https://ocf.tw/en/p/issues/coffeeandcircumventionen). As part of her participation, Maria provided a live demo on how to use OONI’s Measurement Aggregation Toolkit (MAT).

### OONI Community Meeting

On 29th August 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 on push notifications (continuation of discussion from July 2023 community meeting)

## Measurement coverage

In August 2023, 62,887,269 OONI Probe measurements were collected from 3,061 networks in 174 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.