[tor-project] OONI Monthly Report: March 2024


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

# OONI Monthly Report: March 2024

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

  • Sprint 112 (1st-10th March 2024)
  • Sprint 113 (11th-24th March 2024)

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

Highlights are shared in this report below.

## 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. We continued QA testing for the revamped OONI Probe Android application, and we fixed several issues that were found as a result (https://github.com/ooni/run/issues/152, https://github.com/ooni/run/issues/149, https://github.com/ooni/run/issues/142, https://github.com/ooni/run/issues/143, https://github.com/ooni/run/issues/141, https://github.com/ooni/run/issues/140).

We also continued QA testing for the new OONI Run v2 dashboard, which will allow users to create and maintain their OONI Run links. We fixed several issues that were found as a result of testing (https://github.com/ooni/run/issues/150, https://github.com/ooni/run/issues/145,
https://github.com/ooni/ooni.org/issues/1547, https://github.com/ooni/run/issues/144, https://github.com/ooni/ooni.org/issues/1540). We also finished refactoring the API (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/788).

## OONI Probe CLI

In March 2024, we released OONI Probe CLI 3.21.0: https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli/releases/tag/v3.21.0

Moreover, we:

## OONI Explorer

To identify which censorship findings would be most useful (for the internet freedom community) to present on OONI Explorer (https://explorer.ooni.org/), we conducted extensive user research in March 2024.

Specifically, we created a survey (https://forms.gle/tYv3pecJiUFfUfEh9), which we shared widely with members of our community and with the broader internet freedom community. The goal of this survey was to improve our understanding of how community members use OONI Explorer, the types of information that they find most useful, the challenges they encounter in finding information, and how the platform could be improved to enable access to censorship findings. We analyzed the survey results to inform design and information architecture decisions that will guide the implementation of pages that present thematic censorship findings on OONI Explorer.

In addition to the survey, we also carried out interviews with members of our community who use OONI Explorer as part of research and advocacy. The goal of these interviews was to supplement the qualitative data collected through the surveys, and to better understand how they use OONI Explorer and the challenges they encounter in discovering censorship findings through the platform.

Based on the findings from the survey and interviews, we created a manually-curated list of domains that could be featured in each of the thematic areas, and we started evaluating various approaches for presenting relevant censorship findings.

On the development side of things, we made a few improvements to OONI Explorer. Specifically, we improved the performance of the calendar component on the MAT and Search pages (https://github.com/ooni/explorer/commit/a437373e15f08ba935ec9772b1382535a78125c9), and we improved the handling of errors and validations on the OONI Explorer country pages (https://github.com/ooni/explorer/commit/edb33e2b4e89430d28ceee6530d602616e0cc437).
Notably, the OONI dataset reached 2 billion measurements in March 2024 (https://twitter.com/OpenObservatory/status/1764644397700841669)! We thank our community for contributing measurements over the past decade, shedding light on internet censorship worldwide.

## Automating censorship detection and characterization based on OONI measurements

In March 2024, we made progress towards shipping the new OONI Data Pipeline into production. Specifically, we integrated the pull request that implements the new Experiment Result model into the main branch (https://github.com/ooni/data/pull/43).

More importantly, we worked on researching orchestration systems for running the periodic tasks necessary for analyzing and processing OONI measurements (https://github.com/ooni/data/issues/46). We opened a pull request that adds support for using Temporal as an orchestration system (https://github.com/ooni/data/pull/58).

We also made a piece of very important refactoring, where we separate the OONI Data Pipeline (that’s to be run on servers) from the command line interface and library component that can be installed by end users (https://github.com/ooni/data/pull/60).

## Research collaborations with partners on upcoming reports

We continued to coordinate with our partners on research efforts required for upcoming research reports. Specifically, we coordinated with our partners on extensive updates to the Citizen Lab test lists for Russia, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, and Iran.

In March 2024, the updates for the test lists of Russia and Kazakhstan were finalized. Specifically:

## Research report on internet censorship in Tanzania

Beyond the aforementioned (upcoming) research reports, we have been working on a research report that documents internet censorship in Tanzania based on the analysis of OONI data collected between January 2023 to January 2024.

In March 2024, we completed all of the data analysis, research, and writing required for our research report documenting internet censorship in Tanzania. We scheduled the publication of this report in April 2024 to enable more thorough review (both by the OONI team and local partners) prior to publication.

## Planning the OONI Partner Gathering 2024

In preparation for the upcoming OONI Partner Gathering in Malaysia in May 2024, we continued to coordinate on numerous logistics (flights, shuttle service, hotel, catering, etc.). We also assisted participants with visa requirements as needed (though very few participants require e-visas, while most participants don’t need visas to travel to Malaysia), and we coordinated with designers on event-related supplies and materials.

Notably, we created and shared a survey with all OONI Partner Gathering participants to collect their feedback, which will help shape and inform the final agenda of the event. As our goal is to ensure that we create an agenda that is valuable to all participants, we requested their feedback on the types of sessions that they would find most useful, the types of skills and knowledge that they would like to learn, and the outcomes that would make their participation feel well spent. As participants started to fill out the survey, we started to analyze the results and create a draft agenda based on participant feedback.

In addition to the pre-Partner Gathering survey (which was designed to collect feedback for the agenda), we also prepared a post-Partner Gathering survey to collect participant feedback after the event. These two surveys include a few mutual questions, which will enable us to compare and evaluate the effectiveness of the event in sharing OONI-related skills and knowledge.

## Community use of OONI data

### Publication by Oxford on how digital technologies are used to wield authoritarian power during Russia’s 2024 presidential election

Ahead of Russia’s March 2024 presidential election, researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute and the University of Bremen published an article which shares their insights on how digital technologies can be used to wield authoritarian power in the context of the Russian election.

Their article makes use of OONI data, and is available here: https://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/news-events/2024-russian-presidential-elections-how-digital-technologies-are-used-to-wield-authoritarian-power/

## Community activities

### OONI demo at the OTF Internet Freedom Expos

On 18th and 19th March 2024, OONI’s Arturo traveled to Washington D.C to participate in the Open Technology Fund’s (OTF) Internet Freedom Expo at the U.S Congress (https://twitter.com/OpenTechFund/status/1773726871965802906).

As part of his participation, Arturo hosted an OONI demo and presented OONI’s work.

### OONI participation in Roskomsvoboda’s DEMHACK 8

Between 29th-31st March 2024, Roskmosvoboda hosted the 8th hackathon in its series of DEMHACK hackathons (https://8.demhack.org/). OONI participated in this hackathon as a partner and as part of the jury board.

As part of DEMHACK 8, two teams used OONI tools and methodologies for their hackathon projects. One team developed a prototype of the messengers’ accessibility tests for DPI Detector (https://github.com/nomah4/ubiquitous-rotary-phone), using OONI Probe tests as a reference. This team acquired third place in the hackathon.

Another team used OONI data and the OONI API to compare the Roskomnadzor blocklist with the domains identified as blocked by OONI Probe, with the goal of potentially creating an alternative blocklist based on OONI measurements (https://github.com/1andrevich/ooni-zapret-list).

We hope to stay in touch with both teams to further collaborate on investigating censorship in Russia.

### OONI Community Meeting

On 26th March 2024, we hosted the monthly OONI Community Meeting on our Slack channel (https://slack.ooni.org/).

The topic of this meeting was “Network measurements and censorship circumvention”, and we invited the following speakers:

  • Ain Ghazal, Information Controls OTF Fellow with OONI
  • Cecylia Bocovich, Tor Project
  • Keith McManamen, Psiphon
  • Diwen Xue, PhD Student, University of Michigan, Censored Planet

As part of this meeting, our invited guests shared their experiences and some of the questions discussed (https://pad.riseup.net/p/ooni-community-meeting-keep) include:

  • Why is it important for circumvention projects to measure networks? How do existing network measurement projects contribute to circumvention technologies?
  • What could both network measurement projects and circumvention development projects do better in terms of measurement or in terms of data sharing? What are the challenges to fill the existing gaps?
  • How can network measurement data help inform circumvention tool development and deployment efforts? What type of data would be most useful, and what questions would you want such data to answer?
  • What are the challenges associated with measuring and evaluating whether a circumvention tool works?
  • What is needed to help ensure that circumvention technologies are more resilient to censorship?

## Measurement coverage

In March 2024, 58,901,099 OONI Probe measurements were collected from 2,904 networks in 173 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.

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