[tor-project] OONI Monthly Report: January 2023


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

# OONI Monthly Report: January 2023

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

  • Sprint 82 (2nd-15th January 2023)
  • Sprint 83 (16th-29th January 2023)

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

Highlights are shared in this report below.

## OONI Probe Mobile

We added support to OONI Probe Mobile for the re-testing of URLs that presented anomalies (https://github.com/ooni/probe-android/pull/554). This new feature enables OONI Probe users to more easily re-test URLs that present signs of blocking, thereby contributing more measurements that potentially contain evidence of internet censorship.

We also made improvements to RTL support for both OONI Probe Mobile and Desktop (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2346), we removed the RiseupVPN test option from the app settings (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2204), we improved upon how tests are run on iOS (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2175), and we continued working towards rewriting OONI Probe Mobile in Flutter (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2359).

## OONI Run

We worked towards ensuring that OONI Run links continue performing tests on iOS, even when the device is locked (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2361).

Notably, we collaborated with the Localization Lab (https://www.localizationlab.org/) on creating a new localization project for OONI Run on Transifex (https://explore.transifex.com/otf/ooni-run/) and we uploaded the relevant strings for translation. This enabled the localization community to start translating the OONI Run platform (https://run.ooni.io/), making it more accessible to communities worldwide.

## Published OONI Run screencast

To enable communities to use OONI Run (https://run.ooni.io/) to coordinate website censorship testing, we created a screencast which shows how to use the platform. In creating this screencast, we wrote a script (which appears as subtitles, which can be translated) and we created a screen recording illustrating how to use OONI Run.

We published the OONI Run screencast on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGRN7ve6cIA

## OONI Probe CLI

We carried out development and quality assurance work to prepare the OONI Probe CLI 3.17.x release. To this end, we released OONI Probe ClI v3.17.0-alpha (https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/releases/tag/v3.17.0-alpha) and OONI Probe CLI v3.17.0-alpha.1 (https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/releases/tag/v3.17.0-alpha.1). As part of this work, we merged a fix that prevents the Web Connectivity v0.5 experiment from fetching data from the localhost (https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/pull/1027).

We also added support for performing A/B testing between Web Connectivity v0.4 (the current stable release) and v0.5 (the new Web Connectivity version). Once OONI Probe CLI 3.17.0 is released, we will start using this mechanism to enable the Web Connectivity v0.5 experiment for some users and compare the measurement results it collects with the ones collected by the previous version.

This release also refactors the build system to verify we are building with the expected compiler flags through unit tests. As part of this work, we rewrote how we compile tor for Android to add support for patching and hardening flags.

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

Supporting a richer testing input model requires exposing the full check-in API response to experiments. Such a response, in fact, potentially includes configuration flags and other ancillary information that, along with the input URL, provides richer input.

To move this objective forward, we fixed ooniprobe’s backend client to observe the full check-in response, rather than just extracting the URLs (https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/pull/1037).

We then started using richer input when instantiating experiments by implementing code to A/B test Web Connectivity implementations. This feature inspects the check-in API response to extract feature flags (https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/pull/1039). We also extended the check-in API itself to provide a feature flag that selects the Web Connectivity v0.5 experiment for some users.

## OONI Probe Web

We worked towards finalizing the development of our new browser-based censorship measurement tool: OONI Probe Web (https://probe-web.ooni.org/).

In working towards the first beta release, we added support for detecting the browser being used by the user and displaying a warning text if their browser configuration could lead to false positives (https://github.com/ooni/probe-web/pull/5/files).

## OONI Explorer

Through January 2023, we worked on the following new OONI Explorer (https://explorer.ooni.org/) features:

As part of this work, we worked closely with a designer who carried out UX research with our community, helping to improve the design and usability of the above new features and pages.

## OONI backend

Through January 2023, we continued to work on a series of backend improvements.

Specifically, we:

## Automating censorship detection and characterization based on OONI measurements

We made progress on the characterization of website censorship through our OONI data analysis tool (https://github.com/ooni/data/pull/23).

Specifically, we:

  • Improved the DNS analysis;
  • Made some tweaks to the TCP and NXDOMAIN scoring;
  • Improved the TLS analysis to make use of HTTP measurements;
  • Improved the code quality.

Moreover, we started implementing a set of data visualizations to be displayed from the OONI data web interface by integrating the vega generated charts into react. This lays the foundation for eventually integrating these charts into OONI Explorer (https://github.com/ooni/data/pull/25).

## Creating a Social Media Censorship Alert System

We continued to make progress on the initial event detector developed for the new Social Media Censorship Alert System (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/629). As part of this, we monitored our internal dashboard, ran experiments using the Pandas library, and created a CSV dump on S3 for reproducible testing. Based on the experiments, we made performance improvements and we implemented various changes to improve how cases of potential censorship are detected.

## Test list updates

We continued to work towards improving the test lists. Specifically, we updated the test lists for Tajikistan (https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/pull/1211), Nigeria (https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/pull/1208), and Russia (https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/pull/1206, https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/pull/1207).

## OONI reports for the ISOC Pulse project on Internet shutdowns

As a data partner for the ISOC Pulse project on Internet shutdowns, we contributed OONI data (along with relevant charts and information) for the “service blocking” events listed on the ISOC Pulse shutdowns timeline: https://pulse.internetsociety.org/shutdowns

Specifically, we created OONI reports (including OONI data, charts, and relevant interpretation of the findings) for many of the “service blocking” entries listed in the ISOC Pulse shutdown timeline. These reports will be added under the “Data and Analysis” section of relevant ISOC Pulse shutdown entries.

Throughout January 2023, we wrote OONI reports for the “service blocking” entries (where relevant OONI data exists) from 2018, 2019, 2021, and 2022 on the ISOC Pulse shutdown timeline.

## OONI data analysis

Throughout January 2023, we provided OONI data analysis support to community members, and we carried out various data analysis tasks in support of our own research. This includes a year-long analysis of OONI data collected from Russia (https://github.com/ooni/ooni.org/issues/1331), as well as analysis of OONI data collected from Venezuela (https://github.com/ooni/ooni.org/issues/1310).

## Creating a new OONI Outreach Kit

In January 2023, we finalized all of the materials for the new OONI Outreach Kit.

Specifically, we created and finalized the content for the following:

  • 3 versions of an (1-page) OONI Probe Fact Sheet
  • Long version (2-pages) of an OONI Probe Fact Sheet
  • OONI Probe Fact Sheet for Elections
  • Document with OONI Probe testing instructions
  • 2 versions of an (1-page) OONI Explorer Fact Sheet
  • OONI Explorer Fact Sheet for Researchers
  • OONI Explorer Fact Sheet for Human Rights Advocates
  • OONI Explorer Fact Sheet for Journalists
  • Internet Censorship Fact Sheet
  • Fact Sheet on How Websites are Blocked
  • 2 versions of OONI Brochures
  • OONI Resources document

Upon finalizing the Outreach Kit content, we contracted Ura Design (https://ura.design/) for the design of the materials.

## Coordination of translation of OONI documents

To enable more communities around the world to learn about OONI, we aim to have the following OONI documents translated:

To this end, we contracted translators for the translation of the above documents into the following 5 languages: Arabic, Farsi, Russia, Swahili, and Spanish.

We prioritized these 5 languages because they are spoken in many countries that experience high levels of internet censorship. We worked with translators who were already active in the OONI community and therefore more familiar with OONI’s terminologies, tools, and goals.

In preparation for these translations, we wrote relevant translation guidelines, which we shared with each of the translators. We subsequently coordinated with the translators.

## Updated the OONI FAQ

On our website, we have an OONI Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section which aims to address the questions that we are frequently asked by the community (https://ooni.org/support/faq/).

In January 2023, we updated the OONI FAQ page to reflect changes in our tools and provide up-to-date information and links (https://github.com/ooni/ooni.org/pull/1334) – particularly in preparation for the translation of this content.

## Community use of OONI data

### Research report on VPN blocking in Uganda

Christopher Kalema (OPTIMA research fellow) published a research report investigating VPN blocking in Uganda and its impact on the country’s preparations for the 2021 general elections. This study made use of OONI data to investigate VPN blocking in Uganda.

The research report is available here: https://internews.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/VPN-Blocking-During-the-2021-Ugandan-Election.pdf

### Pakistan started blocking Deutsche Welle (DW)

On 16th January 2023, OONI data shows that Pakistan started blocking access to Deutsche Welle (DW): https://explorer.ooni.org/chart/mat?probe_cc=PK&test_name=web_connectivity&domain=www.dw.com&since=2023-01-04&until=2023-02-04&axis_x=measurement_start_day

This was reported by Oliver Linow (Internet Freedom Specialist at DW), who shared OONI data on the blocking of DW: https://twitter.com/OliverLinow/status/1619282417629675522

## Community activities

### SFLC.in panel for the launch of a new report on website blocks in India

On 12th January 2023, OONI’s Maria participated as a panelist on SFLC.in’s panel “Error 404 Website Cannot Be Found”, which launched their new research report on website blocking in India (https://sflc.in/finding-404-report-website-blocking-india/).

Information about the event can be found here: https://sflc.in/error-404-website-cannot-be-found

The panel discussion was live-streamed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB5hlX6dSoI

### OTF Summit

Between 24th-26th January 2023, OONI’s Arturo traveled to Texas to participate in the OTF Summit. As part of his participation, Arturo co-facilitated a session (in collaboration with Netalitica’s Igor Valentovitch) on investigating information controls through the use of OONI tools and the Citizen Lab’s test lists.

### Roskomsvoboda’s Privacy Day 2023 event

On 27th January 2023, OONI’s Maria participated as a speaker in Roskomsvoboda’s Privacy Day 2023 event (https://2023.privacyday.net/), as part of which she discussed how people in Russia can participate in OONI censorship measurement.

The event was live-streamed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUPYMW_tsUo

### OONI Community Meeting

On 31st January 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. Updating the OONI Probe test for RiseupVPN.
  3. OONI workshops and participation in events in the Global South in 2023.

## Measurement coverage

In January 2023, 60,858,923 OONI Probe measurements were collected from 2,899 AS networks in 168 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.