[tor-project] OONI Monthly Report: January 2024


This email shares OONI’s monthly report for January 2024.

# OONI Monthly Report: January 2024

Throughout January 2024, the OONI team worked on the following sprints:

  • Sprint 108 (1st - 14th January 2024)
  • Sprint 109 (15th - 28th January 2024)

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

Highlights are shared in this report below.

## Published report on news media censorship in Bangladesh during 2024 elections

In January 2024, we published a short report documenting the blocking of news media websites in Bangladesh (based on OONI data) amid the country’s 2024 general elections.

The report is available here: https://explorer.ooni.org/findings/11686385001

## OONI Probe Mobile

We released OONI Probe Mobile 3.8.6 on Android: https://github.com/ooni/probe-android/releases/tag/v3.8.6

This release includes an important fix for the data quality of the Signal Private Messenger App experiment (https://ooni.org/nettest/signal) results. It also ensures that the measurement engine is synced with OONI Probe CLI v3.20.0, and it includes several bug fixes and improvements.

## OONI Run

As part of our work on creating the next generation version of OONI Run (“OONI Run v2”), there were several key activities we undertook this month.

Specifically, we continued to work towards achieving a ‘feature complete’ status for the Android application so that we can begin end-to-end testing. This included focusing on finishing the initial implementation of the add link flow, including addressing some feedback from early testing (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2595). We worked on implementing the dashboard link loading and we reviewed the updates (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2594), and we continued to work on the dashboard (https://github.com/ooni/run/pull/131), which is now ready for testing. Additionally, we enumerated the remaining backend work we need to complete as part of this project (https://github.com/ooni/ooni.org/issues/1519).

## OONI Probe CLI

Most of the development work in January 2024 was focused on bringing Web Connectivity v0.5 to production (as documented in the next section below).

In addition to this work, we reworked the output of the DNS Ping experiment to make it more actionable (https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/pull/1444) by taking into account specific feedback provided by community members.

We also increased the robustness of the internal libtor package to prevent concurrent tor instances, which would lead to a crash because libtor uses several shared, unlocked, global data structures (https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/pull/1445). This issue emerged while debugging Tor Snowflake experiment crashes (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2406). While addressing this issue is not enough to prevent crashes (given that we were not running libtor concurrently anyway), we tried to structurally prevent this from happening directly inside the libtor codebase.

## Creating a methodology for measuring throttling

To measure throttling more effectively, we need to ship Web Connectivity v0.5, which is based on an underlying measurement library specifically designed to collect additional throttling-related information and, more generally, easier-to-process measurements. To this end, in the previous month we ensured that Web Connectivity v0.5 produced the same results as version v0.4 (the one currently running in production) for all test cases in our QA suite.

In January 2024, we continued this work by fixing additional data quality issues affecting Web Connectivity v0.4 and v0.5 so that when we release Web Connectivity v0.5, we are sure there are hopefully no regressions and only improvements.

Specifically, we:

  • Ensured that the data analysis engine used by Web Connectivity v0.5 behaves correctly and detects multiple cases of blocking (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2640). While the overall result of the experiment uses a logic that is still compatible with v0.4, the result also contains flags indicating all the anomalies observed. For example, as part of the same measurement, OONI could detect both DNS and TLS interference.
  • Enumerated and fixed a number of edge cases where otherwise the measurement result would have been inaccurate, including cases where (a) a domain does not exist anymore but there’s still DNS censorship returning the IP address where a blockpage is hosted and (b) domains for which there are no A or AAAA records, which are now correctly recognized as not accessible and not blocked (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2652).
  • Handled more cases where a website is not TCP or TLS reachable, which are now marked as not accessible, not blocked (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2299).
  • Ensured that IDNA (Internationalized Domain Names) are handled correctly by adding test cases and fixes (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1925).
  • Added test cases to avoid flagging TCP blocking when IPv6 is available but there are no IPv6 routes (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2456).
  • Ensured that cases where a website address is a loopback address (due to censorship or misconfiguration) are handled correctly (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1517).
  • Ensured that v0.5 does not include cached DNS responses to avoid confusing pipelines processing OONI data (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1530).
  • Fixed a bug where v0.5 was not able to correctly process URLs containing IPv4 or IPv6 addresses (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1511).

In addition to the code and test case changes described above, we also verified ~40 data quality issues and we started sketching out fixes for other outstanding issues. All the data quality issues that we vetted and closed in January 2024 can be found here: https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues?q=is%3Aissue+label%3A2024-01-data-quality-cleanup+is%3Aclosed

## OONI Explorer

In January 2024, we worked on updating dependencies for OONI Explorer (https://github.com/ooni/explorer/issues/901), and we started working towards building design system components (https://github.com/ooni/design-system/issues/168).

We also started working towards presenting thematic censorship findings on OONI Explorer through brainstorming sessions to discuss the potential scope of work and agree on next steps.

## OONI Backend

We made significant progress on coming up with a plan about the future of OONI infrastructure. Specifically, we started exploring several solutions for having a better pattern for deploying frontend and server-side components. As part of this work, we carried out an internal survey with our development team.

After experimenting with several different solutions, we concluded that it’s probably ideal to go for an approach which can be adopted iteratively and that connects well with the existing patterns. We will therefore have a system for defining our infrastructure as code and start using (where it makes sense) more cloud infrastructure (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/785).

We also started making a big refactor of backend components to make it easier to deploy our OONI data analysis tool (https://github.com/ooni/data) as part of the OONI backend (https://github.com/ooni/backend/pull/791).

## Test list updates

Throughout January 2024, we coordinated with community members on updating the Citizen Lab test lists and we reviewed many pull requests.

These include:

## Research collaborations with partners on upcoming reports

In January 2024, we coordinated with the Tor Project on signing Fixed Award Agreements (FAAs) with 4 of our local partners to financially support their contributions to upcoming research reports (as part of a DRL grant). This officially initiated the research collaborations, and we started collaborating with our partners on several research reports.

Specifically, we started this research process by finalizing the research scope for each of the upcoming reports, and collaborating with our partners on updating the Citizen Lab test lists for Russia, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, and Iran. Each of these test list updates has a thematic focus based on the specific research questions of each (upcoming) research report.

## Planning the OONI Partner Gathering 2024

We are excited to share that on 8th and 9th May 2024, we will host an in-person OONI Partner Gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As part of this 2-day event, we will bring our partners (primarily from Asia and the Middle East) together to share skills and knowledge on internet censorship research. The goal of the event is to strengthen regional and global collaboration on censorship measurement research and advocacy.

To host this event, we had previously (in 2023) carried out all the necessary fundraising and logistical planning work. As we were not able to reach the target overall budget that would have allowed us to bring all our partners from around the world, we decided to limit the scope of the event primarily to our partners from Asia and the Middle East (while also inviting some of our international partners, whose work is relevant/important to our regional partners). We decided this because countries in Asia and the Middle East experience the most pervasive forms of internet censorship (and we therefore prioritized these regions over other regions which experience less internet censorship).

In an effort to ensure that the OONI Partner Gathering is hosted in a location that is as visa-friendly as possible for our participants, we developed a script which identifies such locations based on various parameters, such as visa requirements, safety index, and flight travel time (https://github.com/hellais/global-gather). Based on this data-driven approach, Malaysia was identified as one of the top visa-free countries in the world for our specific list of participants. This was another reason why we decided to limit the event primarily to our partners from Asia. That said, we hope to host additional OONI Partner Gathering events for our partners in Africa and Latin America over the next few years.

In January 2024, we sent official invitations (along with a Concept Note) to our partners from Asia (Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia, Central Asia), the Middle East, and to some of our international partners. We also started coordinating with a travel agency on the booking of flights, with the hotel on the booking of rooms and meeting spaces, and on a number of other logistics. We expect to welcome 46 participants at the OONI Partner Gathering in May 2024.

## OONI workshops and presentations

### OONI training for Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan

On 12th January 2024, OONI’s Elizaveta hosted an online OONI workshop for Pakistan’s Digital Rights Foundation (https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/), training their team members on how to use OONI tools in preparation for Pakistan’s upcoming 2024 elections. The goal of this training was to enable Digital Rights Foundation to train local journalists on how to use OONI tools to measure and monitor censorship events.

### OONI Q&A for BebasID Indonesia

On 12th January 2024, OONI’s Elizaveta and Simone hosted an online OONI Q&A session with the BebasID community in Indonesia (https://bebasid.com/). As part of this session, we answered questions regarding the use of OONI tools, we collected community feedback, and we discussed the current state of internet censorship in Indonesia with the BebasID community.

### OONI training for human rights advocates in Senegal

Between 16th-18th January 2024, OONI’s Elizaveta co-hosted a 3-day hybrid training for human rights advocates in Dakar, Senegal. We organized this training in collaboration with our local partners, Computech (https://computechinstitute.com/) and Jonction (https://jonction.e-monsite.com/), and the event was possible thanks to support from Access Now.

The goal of the training was to share OONI skills and knowledge that would enable Senegalese human rights advocates and trainers to run OONI workshops for their communities in 5 different regions of Senegal.

As part of this training, Elizaveta facilitated the following sessions:

  • Introduction to Internet Censorship
  • Using OONI Probe and OONI Run: Hands-on workshop
  • Updating the Senegalese test list: Hands-on workshop
  • Using OONI Explorer: Hands-on workshop

As part of this training, the participants created the programmes for their own training and scheduled them for January and February 2024. Overall, the goal was to enable local Senegalese trainers and human rights defenders to lead and facilitate OONI censorship measurement workshops in their communities in preparation for the country’s 2024 elections.

### OONI presentation at IAB Workshop on Barriers to Internet Access of Services (BIAS)

On 17th January 2024, OONI’s Simone presented our research report on how internet censorship in Russia changed during the first year of military conflict in Ukraine (https://ooni.org/post/2023-russia-a-year-after-the-conflict/) as part of the IAB Workshop on Barriers to Internet Access of Services (BIAS), 2024 (https://datatracker.ietf.org/group/biasws/about/).

The presentation is available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/rz2qkRfaNVE?si=i33_45UTX96Vs21z&t=3404

## Activities by the OONI community

### OONI workshop by Digital Rights Foundation for journalists in Pakistan

In January 2024, our partner, Digital Rights Foundation (https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/), facilitated two workshops for 60 journalists in Pakistan in preparation for the country’s 2024 elections. As part of this workshop, Digital Rights Foundation introduced participants to OONI tools and encouraged them to run OONI Probe tests leading up to the election.

As part of their 2024 election monitoring efforts, Pakistan’s Digital Rights Foundation encouraged the use of OONI Probe as part of their ElectionDesk resource: https://election2024.digitalrightsfoundation.pk/internet-shutdowns/

### OONI training by Digital Rights Lab for journalists in Sudan

On 13th January 2024, our partner, Digital Rights Lab Sudan (https://ooni.org/partners/drlab/), facilitated online OONI training sessions in Arabic for journalists in Sudan. As part of the training sessions, they introduced participants to OONI tools and internet measurement.

### OONI training by Computech and Jonction in Senegal

On 27th January 2024, our partners, Computech (https://computechinstitute.com/) and Jonction (https://jonction.e-monsite.com/), hosted an OONI training session in Saint Louis, Senegal. This training (run by local trainers) included hands-on workshops on using OONI Probe and OONI Run.

### OONI training by Advocacy Assembly fellow for human rights defenders in Sierra Leone

On 29th January 2024, the Center for Advocacy and Sustainable Empowerment hosted an in-person workshop in Bo, Sierra Leone, as part of the Advocacy Assembly Internet Shutdown Mentored Training Program (https://advocacyassembly.org/en/news/236). As part of this workshop, they introduced participants to OONI tools. OONI’s Elizaveta joined this workshop for the online Q&A session to address participants’ questions in relation to OONI’s work and tools.

## OONI Community Meeting

On 30th January 2024, we hosted the monthly OONI Community Meeting on our Slack channel (https://slack.ooni.org/), during which we discussed the following topics:

Preparing for elections in 2024: How to monitor and respond to censorship events
Improving OONI Explorer: Request for community feedback on needs and challenges

## Measurement coverage

In January 2024, 64,404,108 OONI Probe measurements were collected from 3,028 networks in 167 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.

1 Like