Category Archives: Internet censorship

OONI Community Interviews: Moses Karanja

We first met Moses Karanja several years ago at the Citizen Lab Summer Institute. He’s a Kenyan information controls researcher, having previously worked with Strathmore University Law School research centre, CIPIT. Currently, he’s a PhD student at the University of Toronto.

Over the last years, Moses has championed OONI community engagement across Africa. Thanks to his tireless efforts, communities in many African countries are now running OONI Probe and using OONI data to examine internet censorship and other forms of network interference. We have worked with Moses on a number of research reports and are grateful for his commitment to defending a free and open internet.

Today we publish an interview with Moses so that you can have a chance to meet him too and learn more about his work.

View his interview here.

Publication date: 9th May 2018

Publisher: Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)

ParkNet: Short Documentary on Internet Censorship in Cuba

Last year we had the opportunity to travel to Cuba to explore its internet landscape. We spent most of our time hopping from one public WiFi hotspot to another, measuring networks in Havana, Santa Clara, and Santiago de Cuba. You might remember that we published a research report on our findings.

Today we publish a short documentary (“ParkNet”) on our study of internet censorship in Cuba.

View the video here.

Publisher: Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)

Publication date: 23rd April 2018

OONI’s recent participation at events in Africa, India, and Europe

Over the last months, the OONI team had the opportunity to host workshops, give presentations, and participate in discussions at the following conferences and events:

These events provided us a great opportunity to meet many fascinating people from various communities, learn about their work, form new collaborations, and collect feedback for the improvement of our tools and methodologies.

Read the rest of the post here.

Publisher: Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)

Publication date: 11th April 2018

Sierra Leone: Network disruptions amid 2018 runoff elections

Last weekend, two network disruptions occurred in Sierra Leone right before and after the country’s runoff elections.

This post examines these disruptions and shares data that corroborates local reports.

It seems that the network disruptions were caused by an ACE submarine cable cut. Google traffic and BGP data suggest that the second disruption, following the runoff elections, could be an internet blackout.

Read the post here.

Publisher: Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)

Publication date: 5th April 2018

Investigating Internet Blackouts from the Edge of the Network: OONI’s new upcoming methodology

Imagine a day where the internet is shut down completely. You have to work, check the news, and communicate with your friends and family. All of a sudden, you can’t do any of that, because there simply is no internet. It feels like a strange form of time travel has taken place: you’re thrown several decades into the past, into a world without internet, but in one which has learned to heavily rely on it. And sometimes, you remain in that world for several days (or months, in the case of the anglophone region of Cameroon). None of this makes sense, and there’s no clear justification for it either.

This is the type of reality that millions of people around the world experience every year, when an internet blackout takes place in their region.

Read more here.

Publisher: Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)

Publication date: 4th April 2018

Iran Protests: OONI data confirms censorship events

At this point, you have probably read all about the major anti-government protests that erupted across Iran over the last week. You may have even read about how services like Telegram and Instagram were blocked, reportedly as part of a government attempt to stifle the unrest.

We publish this post to share OONI network measurement data collected from Iran between 28th December 2017 (when the protests started) to 2nd January 2018. OONI data confirms the blocking of Telegram, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger amidst Iran’s protests and reveals how blocks were implemented.

Read the report here.

Publication date: 5th January 2018

Publisher: Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)

OONI at the 34th Chaos Communication Congress (34C3)

The OONI team attended the 34th Chaos Communication Congress (34C3): Europe’s largest hacker conference on technology, society, and utopia. We hosted an assembly (called the OONI-verse), and our project lead (Arturo Filasto) presented OONI.

Learn more here.

Publication date: 23rd December 2017

Publisher: Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)

How Pakistan blocked news outlets, social media sites, and IM apps amidst protests

Last weekend, a number of social media sites and news outlets were blocked in Pakistan during Islamist protests. Protesters gathered in Islamabad alleged that Mr. Zahid Hamid, the Federal Law Minister, should be removed from his position because he omitted a reference to the Prophet Muhammad in a parliamentary bill. On Saturday, 25th November 2017, law enforcement agencies initiated an operation to disperse the sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange linking Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

As information about the government operation was reported by the media, protests spread across the country, literally jamming roads and closing businesses. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) prohibited live coverage of the operation at Faizabad, leading to governmental blocking of social media sites and online news channels.

In this post, we provide technical evidence of observed censorship events. We share OONI network measurement data collected from Pakistan, confirming the DNS-based blocking of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. We confirm the DNS blocking of 14 news websites, as well as the censorship of applications including Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and WhatsApp’s web interface. All of these censorship events were temporarily implemented last weekend, and are no longer in place.

Read the full report here.

Publication date: 29th November 2017

Publisher: Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) & Bytes for All, Pakistan

Investigating internet censorship with OONI data

It’s easy to notice when popular platforms that we commonly use – like Google, WhatsApp, or Facebook – are blocked. The not-so-easy part is noticing the censorship of all those other, less popular platforms, such as the sites of minority groups. Due to their sensitive nature, minority group sites are probably more likely to be blocked. But who’s monitoring the accessibility of such sites on a daily basis?

Many cases of internet censorship around the world can go unnoticed. This is even more true when it’s not clear if a site or service has intentionally been blocked or not. The fact that you cannot access a website may not necessarily mean that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is blocking access to it. Maybe the site owner is blocking all IP addresses originating from your country (in compliance with laws and regulations), or maybe the site itself is being hosted on an unreliable server. There are many reasons why you may not be able to access a website. But ultimately, this means that governments and/or ISPs can potentially seek plausible deniability, particularly when it’s not obvious that a site has been blocked (if you don’t see a blockpage, for example).

Knowing whether an internet resource has intentionally been blocked is important. It’s the first step in understanding whether information controls are being implemented in the digital world. This level of transparency is essential because it can support public debate on the legality and ethics around internet censorship, which obviously vary from country to country.

We no longer need to solely trust our local governments and ISPs to limit internet censorship to that which is “legally proportionate”. Now, we can all measure networks and collect data that shows what is blocked, how, when, and by whom. This is possible with a free software tool, called OONI Probe.

Read the rest of the article here.

Publication date: 25th October 2017

Publisher: Data Driven Journalism