[tor-project] OONI Monthly Report: October 2021


Happy new year! Hope you’re all doing well.

These days we’re primarily supported by the DRL, which is why we do quarterly reporting. That said, we’d like to share monthly updates from the OONI team with the community, hence our October 2021 report shared below. I’ll also follow-up to share our November and December 2021 reports.

# OONI Monthly Report: October 2021

Throughout October 2021, the OONI team worked on the following sprints:

  • Sprint 49 - Humpback whale (1st - 10th October 2021)
  • Sprint 50 - Amphipoda (11th - 24th October 2021)

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

Highlights are shared in this report below.

## Published research report on the blocking of the Signal Private Messenger App

We published a research report which shares OONI data and analysis on the blocking of the Signal Private Messenger App in Iran, China, Cuba, and Uzbekistan.

This report is available here: https://ooni.org/post/2021-how-signal-private-messenger-blocked-around-the-world/

In April 2021, we released a new OONI Probe test for measuring the blocking of the Signal Private Messenger App (https://ooni.org/nettest/signal). Since then, OONI community members tested Signal worldwide every day, contributing measurements as open data: https://explorer.ooni.org/search?until=2021-10-23&since=2021-09-23&test_name=signal

As part of this study, we analyzed all Signal measurements collected from around the world between April 2021 to September 2021. During this period, we found that the testing of Signal primarily presented signs of blocking in Iran, China, Cuba, and Uzbekistan. Further information and findings are available in our research report.

## OONI Probe Mobile

We released OONI Probe Mobile 3.3.1 for Android (https://github.com/ooni/probe-android/releases/tag/v3.3.1) which includes bug fixes and optimizations.

In particular, we:

We also worked on:

## OONI Probe Desktop

We released OONI Probe Desktop 3.6.0: https://github.com/ooni/probe-desktop/releases/tag/v3.6.0

This release includes our new Experimental card, which currently features our STUN reachability test. We plan to release new experimental tests as part of this new card.

OONI Probe Desktop 3.6.0 also includes support for 2 new languages: Swahili and Dutch. We thank the Localization Lab community for ongoing OONI Probe translations, and we are particularly grateful to Tanzania’s Zaina Foundation for leading efforts related to translating OONI Probe to Swahili (and increasing the reach of our app in East Africa).

We also released OONI Probe Desktop 3.6.1 (https://github.com/ooni/probe-desktop/releases/tag/v3.6.1) with bug fixes and further improvements.

Moreover, we worked on improvements towards a new OONI Probe CLI release (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1843).

## Expanding censorship measurement methodologies

Shipping our new Websteps experiment (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1733) requires deploying the new Websteps test helper in production. To this end, we worked on comparing the old with the new OONI Probe test helper (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1707). This required extensive testing and investigation to ensure that no issues emerge when we deploy the new test helper.

We now have some TLS parroting capabilities in our miniooni research tool (https://github.com/ooni/probe-cli#miniooni), and we started investigating TLS parroting and interference (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1812).

## OONI Explorer

We deployed recently merged OONI Explorer pull requests to production, and we ensured that anomaly search is included for all supported tests (including the Signal and RiseupVPN tests). We also worked towards addressing issues that result in failed measurements not being displayed correctly (https://github.com/ooni/explorer/issues/611).

Moreover, we refactored OONI Explorer pages to remove the need for a custom server (https://github.com/ooni/explorer/pull/619), and we upgraded core dependencies (react, next) to the latest versions (https://github.com/ooni/explorer/pull/620, https://github.com/ooni/explorer/pull/621).

## OONI Measurement Aggregation Toolkit (MAT)

We made several improvements to the OONI Measurement Aggregation Toolkit (MAT). Specifically, we improved the MAT table view by adjusting the tooltip UI, sorting labels alphabetically, and deploying progress to production.

To add interactivity features to the MAT table view, we made filtered table rows the source for charts, and we fixed the link from the tooltip link to the search page (https://github.com/ooni/explorer/pull/618), among several other improvements. To improve the performance of the MAT, we switched to the Clickhouse-based backend for the MAT pages (https://github.com/ooni/explorer/pull/622).

## Building a web platform for test list updates

We continued to make progress on the web platform that we’re building to enable community contributions to the Citizen Lab test lists (https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists).

In particular, we made a series of UI improvements based on initial community feedback (from the testing of the private beta version of the platform). We added an onboarding section to guide users through the process of using the test list web platform (https://github.com/ooni/test-lists-ui/issues/5, https://github.com/ooni/test-lists-ui/pull/11). We reduced the ambiguity between the “notes” and “comment” sections of the web platform (https://github.com/ooni/test-lists-ui/issues/7, https://github.com/ooni/test-lists-ui/pull/9). We also improved upon error messages (https://github.com/ooni/test-lists-ui/pull/8) and added support for displaying website category descriptions (https://github.com/ooni/test-lists-ui/pull/10).

## OONI backend

In October 2021, we worked on the following OONI backend activities:

  • Deployed the new monitoring host;
  • Created a set of benchmark queries, and tested BigQuery (as a potential alternative database) by running benchmark queries against the whole dataset;
  • Continued to investigate alternative database solutions to boost the performance of our services by comparing Clickhouse, DuckDB, PostgreSQL 13, and BigQuery;
  • Implemented an experimental PG to Clickhouse feeder;
  • Added backend support to the Measurement Aggregation Toolkit (MAT) using the Clickhouse-based backend;
  • Continued to monitor OONI measurement coverage from unattended runs on OONI Probe Mobile and Desktop;
  • Updated DNS handling in ansible and added graphs;
  • Continued to investigate missing jsonl files from the s3 bucket (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/538).

## Partnership with Internet Society (ISOC)

In July 2021, we established a new partnership with Internet Society (ISOC) to collaborate on the ISOC Pulse project: https://pulse.internetsociety.org/shutdowns

In particular, OONI is now a data partner (https://pulse.internetsociety.org/partners) for ISOC’s Pulse project on internet shutdowns. Our goal is to provide relevant OONI data and analysis that can help support the project’s timeline on blocking events around the world.

In October 2021, ISOC published a blog post which announced OONI as a new data partner for their Pulse project, and which explained why OONI data will support their project. Their blog post is available here: https://pulse.internetsociety.org/blog/welcome-cloudflare-ooni-and-w3techs

We also updated the OONI Partners page on our website to feature ISOC as one of our new partners and to highlight their work: https://ooni.org/partners/internet-society

## Collaboration with Netalitica

Netalitica researchers continued to do excellent work in reviewing and updating the Citizen Lab test lists. Based on our feedback, they made further improvements to the test lists for India and Burundi, and we opened a pull request for both test list updates: https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/pull/829

## Community use of OONI data

### Report on social media blocks in Sudan

Community members from Sudan published a report which documents the blocking of social networking sites in Sudan based on OONI data (https://twitter.com/ga800l/status/1449385940175265792).
Their report is available here: https://www.beamreports.com/2021/10/16/%D9%85%D8%A7-%D8%AD%D9%82%D9%8A%D9%82%D8%A9-%D8%AD%D8%AC%D8%A8-%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%B6-%D9%85%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B5%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%AC%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%A7/

## Community activities

### DIG Festival 2021

On 3rd October 2021, OONI’s Arturo participated in a panel discussion at the DIG Festival for investigative journalism in Modena, Italy (https://dig-awards.org/en/dig-festival-2021-english-only/).

As part of this panel, Arturo discussed OONI’s censorship measurement approach and algorithmic censorship.

### Bachchao Project test list event

On 9th and 10th October 2021, OONI’s Maria participated in the Bachchao Project’s 2-day event (organized for communities in India), titled “India, Let’s Build the List”.

As part of her participation, Maria gave a 1-hour presentation (“Introduction to Internet censorship”) on Day 1 to introduce participants to basic concepts around internet censorship. On Day 2 of the event, Maria demoed OONI’s new web platform for updating test lists, and helped facilitate the hands-on sessions for updating the Citizen Lab’s test list for India.

Information about the 2-day event is available via the Bachchao Project’s relevant blog post: https://thebachchaoproject.org/event-report-india-lets-build-the-list/

### OPTIMA 2.0 Network Measurement Training

On 21st and 28th October 2021, OONI’s Maria attended Internews’ live sessions for the “Introduction to Network Measurement” and “OONI” training modules of the OPTIMA 2.0 training program, where she addressed participant questions pertaining to the training modules.

Information about Internews’ OPTIMA Network Measurement Training program is available here: https://internews.org/resource/optima-network-measurement-training/

### Swahilipot Hub event for HacktoberFest Mombasa

On 22nd October 2021, OONI’s Maria facilitated an OONI workshop (titled “How to measure Internet censorship”) for Kenyan civil society as part of the Swahilipot Hub event for HacktoberFest Mombasa (https://swahilipothub.co.ke/).

### Ford Foundation Retreat Webinar

On 28th October 2021, OONI’s Maria participated as a speaker on the Ford Foundation’s Retreat webinar titled “Designing the Internet We Want”. As part of her participation, Maria highlighted the importance of censorship measurement for a free and open internet.

### OONI Community Meeting

On 26th October 2021, we hosted the monthly OONI Community Meeting on our Slack channel (https://slack.ooni.org/), during which we discussed the following topics:

  1. OONI’s research report on the blocking of the Signal app in China, Cuba, Iran, and Uzbekistan.

  2. Improving the OONI Probe sharing button.

  3. Featuring latest censorship events and issues (such as those tracked on GitHub) through the OONI Probe app.

## Userbase

In October 2021, 24,910,212 OONI Probe measurements were collected from 2,410 AS networks in 165 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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