Category Archives: Internet censorship

Uganda’s Social Media Tax through the lens of network measurements

Key Findings

  • HTTP blocking and RST injection: Ugandan ISPs primarily implement internet censorship by means of HTTP blocking, resetting connections to taxed and banned sites.
  • TCP/IP blocking of apps: MTN appears to block Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat by means of TCP/IP blocking. The TCP/IP blocking of Snapchat may have caused collateral damage, possibly affecting thousands of sites hosted on the same CDN. However, even if this is the case, it doesn’t affect most MTN users since MTN’s proxy circumvents IP-level blocking.
  • Variance in blocking: Social media censorship varies across ASNs. Africell, for example, attempts to block Telegram, while MTN doesn’t. Some Ugandan ISPs don’t block access to social media sites at all (such as Uganda Telecom and Smile Communications).
  • Circumvention tools blocked to prevent untaxed access to social media: The blocking of circumvention tool sites also varies across ASNs. MTN blocks access to VPN servers using the OpenVPN protocol and to, but not to the Tor network.

Read the full report here.

Publication date: 12th November 2018

Publishers: OONI & DefendDefenders (with artwork & contributions from POLLICY)

The State of Internet Censorship in Venezuela

Media censorship appears to be quite pervasive, as a number of independent media websites were found to be blocked in Venezuela (primarily) by means of DNS tampering. Blocked news outlets include El Pitazo and El Nacional, while La Patilla was temporarily blocked in June 2018.

Walkie-talkie app Zello was reportedly blocked during Venezuela’s 2014 protests and recent measurements suggest that the service remains blocked by state-owned CANTV. Other blocked sites include a number of currency exchange sites, as well as blogs expressing political criticism.

Censorship circumvention has (possibly) become harder in Venezuela, as CANTV blocked access to the Tor network and to public obfs4 bridges two months ago.

Read the report here.

Publisher: OONI, IPYS Venezuela, Venezuela Inteligente

Publication date: 16th August 2018

South Sudan: Measuring Internet Censorship in the World’s Youngest Nation

Established in July 2011, South Sudan is the youngest country in the world. But the transition to independence from Sudan has been far from smooth, as the country experiences an ongoing civil war. Even though internet penetration levels remain quite low, two media websites and two independent blogs were reportedly blocked last year.

This report is a joint research effort by the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) and South Sudan’s The Advocates for Human Rights and Democracy (TAHURID). We examine internet censorship in South Sudan through the collection and analysis of network measurements.

Our findings corroborate reports on the blocking of media outlets Sudan Tribune and Radio Tamazuj, and independent blogs Nyamilepedia and Paanluel Wel, suggesting that these sites have been blocked for a year. MTN appears to block TCP/IP connections to these sites, while IPTEC appears to block access by means of DNS tampering. Measurements collected in 2017 highlight the presence of the Mikrotik HTTP transparent proxy.

Read more here.

Publication date: 1st August 2018

Publisher: OONI & TAHURID

Mali: Social media disruptions amid 2018 presidential election?

Two days ago, on 29th July 2018, Malians went to the polls to vote in presidential elections and reported that social media was inaccessible.

This is not the first time that social media is reportedly blocked in Mali. Facebook and Twitter were blocked two years ago amidst violent protests against the detention of a popular radio host. Last month, Internet Sans Frontieres reportedthat social media was disrupted in Mali, following a violent police crackdown on banned opposition protests calling for transparency and accountability in the 2018 presidential elections.

In this post, OONI and Internet Sans Frontieres share OONI network measurement data, corroborating local reports on the blocking of WhatsApp and Twitter during Mali’s 2018 presidential election.

Read more here.

Publication date: 31st July 2018

Publisher: OONI & Internet Sans Frontieres

Do you use OONI Probe? We want your feedback!

Since last year’s launch of the OONI Probe mobile apps, tens of thousands of people have been measuring internet censorship in around 200 countries every month. But OONI Probe is far from perfect.

We’re excited to hear more about your experience with the apps so that we can improve them.

We invite you to complete our survey and/or participate in an interview to provide feedback.

Read the post here.

Publication date: 19th July 2018

Publisher: OONI

The State of Internet Censorship in Egypt

Last year, Egypt ordered the blocking of 21 news websitesOONI, a censorship measurement project under the Tor Project, responded by publishing a report on the blocking of (at least) 10 media websites, including Mada Masr and Al Jazeera. In an attempt to identify the remaining blocked sites, Egypt’s Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) ran OONI Probe across multiple networks in Egypt. They subsequently published two research reports, uncovering the blocking of hundreds of URLs (which expand beyond media sites).

OONI and AFTE joined forces. Today, we publish a joint research report on internet censorship in Egypt, based on our analysis of OONI network measurements collected between January 2017 to May 2018.

Our research report is available here.

Publication date: 2nd July 2018

Publisher: OONI & AFTE

Ethiopia: Verifying the unblocking of websites

On 22nd June 2018, the Ethiopian government reported that it had unblocked 264 websites. This (great) news was also reported by ESAT, a major Ethiopian media website that was blocked over the last years.

Today, OONI and Access Now publish new research based on the testing of sites that were previously found to be blocked, in an attempt to examine whether they have in fact been unblocked in recent days.

Read the report here.

Publication date: 29th June 2018

Publisher: Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) & Access Now

Nigeria: Measuring Internet Censorship

Last October, Nigeria’s National Communications Commission (NCC) reportedly ordered the blocking of 21 websites. In response, we collaborated with Nigeria’s Paradigm Initiative to test those websites and collect network measurement data that can shed light on whether and how they’re blocked.

Our findings are included in a joint research report that we published today with Paradigm Initiative. The full report, titled “Tightening the Noose on Freedom of Expression: Status of Internet Freedom in Nigeria 2018”, can be downloaded here. A summary of the report is available here.

Publication date: 11th June 2018

Publisher: Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) & Paradigm Initiative

OONI Community Interviews: Julie Owono

If you’ve met Julie Owono, you’ll probably agree that her passion and determination for defending digital rights is one of the things that stands out about her.

In her capacity as the Executive Director of Internet Sans Frontières (Internet Without Borders), Julie has spearheaded advocacy efforts in defense of online freedoms in many West African countries. Notably, Julie led campaigns against internet shutdowns in Cameroon, as well as in Togo and Chad. Over the last two years, Julie has championed OONI community engagement in West Africa and used OONI data as part of campaigns.

Today we publish an interview with Julie Owono so that you can learn more about her work.

View her interview here.

Publication date: 23rd May 2018

Publisher: Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)

OONI at RightsCon 2018

We are excited to participate at RightsCon next week: the world’s leading event on human rights in the digital age. Annually hosted by Access Now, this three-day conference will take place in Toronto between 16th-18th May 2018.

Over the last years, RightsCon has provided us the opportunity to participate in critical discussions in the digital rights field, meet many fascinating people and organizations, and to form new coalitions. We therefore look forward to participating at RightsCon and are eager to meet many new faces!

Read this post to learn more.

Publication date: 11th May 2018

Publisher: Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)