[ooni-talk] OONI Monthly Report: February 2022

Maria Xynou maria at openobservatory.org
Mon Apr 18 11:00:30 UTC 2022


OONI's February 2022 status report is shared below.

*# OONI Monthly Report: February 2022*

Throughout February 2022, the OONI team worked on the following sprints:

* Sprint 58 (1st - 13th February 2022)
* Sprint 59 (14th - 27th February 2022)

Our work can be tracked through the various OONI GitHub repositories:

Highlights are shared in this report below.

*## OONI submission for the OHCHR report on internet shutdowns*

On 10th February 2022, we sent a submission in response to the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights’s call for submissions in support of OHCHR
report on internet shutdowns and human rights to the fiftieth session of
the Human Rights Council in June 2022 (

In particular, the OONI submission provides information on the occurrence
of mandated disruptions of access to social media and messaging platforms
over the past 5 years based on empirical OONI network measurement data.

Through our submission, we share information on social media blocks that
occurred during elections in Uganda, Tanzania, Mali, Benin, Togo, Burundi,
and Zambia over the last 5 years (based on OONI data). We also share
information on social media blocks that occurred during protests in
Pakistan, Jordan, Iran, Zimbabwe, and Cuba. Moreover, we share OONI data
and information on social media blocks that emerged during sensitive
political time periods in Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Venezuela. In our
submission, we also recommend that the OHCHR considers expanding this scope
to also report on cases that involve the blocking of websites of
marginalized communities.

*## OONI Probe Mobile*

Throughout February 2022, we worked towards the OONI Probe Android 3.6.0

In particular, we worked on the following OONI Probe Android improvements:
* Worked on ensuring that the VPN modal is displayed prior to the running
of tests (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1982);
* Improved the UI for minimizing a running test (
* Fixed a bug affecting the display of the indication that a proxy is being
used (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1919);
* Fixed a bug affecting Web Connectivity tests (
* Improved the performance of the test startup time (
* Improved the progress bar of tests (
* Fixed a bug affecting the OONI backend (
* Disabled the RiseupVPN test from OONI Probe (

We also worked on the following OONI Probe iOS improvements:
* Added links to the OONI blog and research reports in OONI Probe iOS (
* Fixed a bug that caused the OONI Probe iOS app to crash with a malformed
URL (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1978).

In preparation for the upcoming release of our new Tor Snowflake
experiment, we wrote a test description, which we published on our website:

*## OONI Run*

We continued to make incremental improvements to OONI Run based on
community feedback. In particular, we fixed a bug affecting the
copy-pasting of URLs into the OONI Run platform (

*## OONI Probe Desktop*

Throughout February 2022, we worked towards the OONI Probe Desktop 3.7.0
release. In late February 2022, we released the release candidate for OONI
Probe Desktop 3.7.0:

In particular, we worked on the following OONI Probe Desktop improvements:
* Fixed a bug affecting website testing (
* Fixed a bug affecting the “test duration limit” (following recent OONI
Probe CLI changes);
* Fixed a bug affecting the RiseupVPN test result screen (
* Ensured that OONI Probe Desktop defaults to English on unsupported
languages (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1914);
* Disabled the RiseupVPN test from OONI Probe Desktop (

*## OONI Probe Command Line Interface (CLI)*

We released OONI Probe CLI 3.14.1 along with new mobile libraries for
Android and iOS. You can read the changelog here:

Some highlights:

* We added the DNS Check test to the experimental test suite;

* We added the Tor Snowflake test to the experimental test suite;

* We made `ooniprobe list` approximately 7 times faster than before;

* We fixed our mobile libraries to ensure that all measurements are
submitted. Previously, there were cases when the last measurement in a Web
Connectivity run would not be submitted when the experiment timeout
occurred right before an attempt to submit this measurement (see:

* We fixed a bug which prevented the NDT test from working on Android 6
phones due to the bundling of a very old certification authority (

* We added a workaround to handle an inconsistency in how Android 10
NXDOMAIN errors are reported which would otherwise cause measurements to be
marked as failed. This was done by tweaking our error classifier for this
error condition (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2029) and we started
working on a more comprehensive fix for v3.15.

*## Expanding censorship measurement methodologies*

In preparation for the OONI Probe CLI 3.14 release, we performed extensive
QA of the new Tor Snowflake experiment (
https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1917 and
https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2004) where we discussed the proper
experiment configuration with Tor Snowflake developers. We eventually
settled for a configuration where we allow tor to cache on disk its
descriptors to increase the chances that tor could successfully bootstrap
using Snowflake. We determined that bootstrapping issues are probably
caused by the Snowflake bridge being at capacity, which is a problem being
addressed upstream.

We started researching how we could use data we already collect to detect
cases of heavy throttling. We developed a prototype experiment, called
“download”, to explicitly investigate these conditions (
https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2025). We applied some of the
preliminary knowledge we gathered from this new experiment to detect cases
of Twitter throttling using data already collected by Web Connectivity in
our report on censorship in Russia amid the conflict in Ukraine (

We discovered and documented issues with the RiseupVPN experiment (
https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1999) and decided to temporarily
disable the experiment from the OONI Probe apps (
https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/2000) until those fundamental issues
have been resolved.

We also discovered an issue with the tor experiment, where security changes
in the upstream obfs4 library caused the NTOR handshake to fail with some
of the bridges we are currently testing (
https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1970 and
https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1986). We discussed this issue with
the obfs4 maintainer, which helped us understand the extent of the change.
We concluded that for the OONI Probe CLI 3.14 release, we would not use the
most updated version of the obfs4 library, in order to provide bridge
operators some extra time to update obfs4. We aim to upgrade obfs4 in the
next OONI Probe release.

We helped our OTF Information Controls Research Fellow Kathrin Elmenhorst
to implement a QUIC Ping experiment aimed at better characterizing cases of
QUIC blocking (https://github.com/ooni/probe/issues/1994). The core idea of
the experiment is to initiate a QUIC session using an invalid version
number, to elicit a version negotiation message from a server. The message
sent to initiate the session does not contain valid TLS data, therefore
this experiment helps us to distinguish cases where QUIC is blocked from
cases where the blocking depends on the TLS data contained in the initial
QUIC datagram.

*## OONI Explorer localization*

Through collaboration with the Localization Lab, OONI Explorer copy was
added to Transifex to enable translation of the platform by the global
Localization Lab community.

OONI Explorer can now be translated through the following Transifex
project: https://www.transifex.com/otf/ooni-explorer/

Thanks to the Localization Lab community, OONI Explorer is being translated
to 20 languages, and is already fully translated to Persian, Turkish, and

*## Circumvention Tool Reachability Dashboard*

Leading up to the launch (early March 2022), we worked on final
improvements to our new Circumvention Tool Reachability Dashboard (
https://explorer.ooni.org/chart/circumvention). This included a series of
UI improvements based on review and testing of the platform (

*## OONI Measurement Aggregation Toolkit (MAT)*

We continued to make improvements to our new Measurement Aggregation
Toolkit (MAT) in preparation for the public launch (early April 2022).
These improvements included improvements to the readability of x-axis
charts, and layout changes in charts for longer date ranges (expanding
beyond 2 months). We also made backend improvements to the aggregation API
to improve how anomalous, confirmed, and failed measurements are grouped
and counted in the API (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/486).

*## OONI backend*

We continued to work on migrating the OONI API to the new Clickhouse-based
backend in production (https://github.com/ooni/pipeline/pull/371). This
involved testing the new Clickhouse-based API (
https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/552), re-importing the fastpath
table with a domain column, comparing statistics generated by the private
API, extensive monitoring, testing API endpoints and migrating them, and
fixing the counts inside the aggregation API (

We also continued working on a number of other backend activities, such as
improving the Prometheus and Grafana dashboards and alerting to monitor the
Clickhouse database and its server. We cleaned up various spurious alerts
and alerts that emerged due to limited memory on the ams-pg-test host. We
ran an experiment predicting incoming traffic using sklearn's (machine
learning library) linear regression. The experiment was successful.

We set up log forwarding and ingestion using the monitoring server and
created an example dashboard on Jupyter. We implemented a tool to run
Jupyter notebooks automatically, which allows us to produce charts on an
hourly, daily or weekly basis (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/564).
We created a dashboard to monitor API check-ins. We also worked on adding
support to the check-in API for returning geolocation information (

We started a thorough review of measurements that were not processed
successfully in the past due to unsupported formats or parsing errors (
https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/538). As part of this, we also
created Jupyter dashboards and started a design document to plan the
reprocessing of measurements.

We also investigated a bug impacting RiseupVPN measurements (
https://github.com/ooni/pipeline/pull/379). In preparation for a security
audit, we also continued to work on extensive threat modeling (

*## Improving OONI data analysis capabilities*

We worked on data analysis and research related to extracting per website
metrics (https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/330). As part of this, we
wrote an internal design document that outlines the features of various
OONI measurements that are useful for performing data analysis tasks (
https://github.com/ooni/ooni.org/issues/1112). This document will support
our efforts in extracting data from OONI measurements that is useful for
characterizing different forms of internet censorship.

We also worked towards consolidating our block page fingerprint collection
efforts with the Citizen Lab filtering annotations (
https://github.com/ooni/backend/issues/516). This will enhance our ability
to automatically detect and confirm more cases of website blocking around
the world.

*## Improving third party usage of OONI data*

To enable third parties (such as researchers) to make use of OONI data, we
worked on implementing a tool for third party download of OONI data. To
avoid drifting out of sync, we determined in our design goals that this
tool should use the same codebase as the OONI data processing pipeline.

Initial work on this new tool was published as a branch of the OONI
pipeline repository: https://github.com/ooni/pipeline/pull/377

We also created an internal design document, which outlines some of the
current challenges in third party OONI data consumption and shared it for
feedback with some key users of OONI data.

*## Creating an online OONI Training Course for Advocacy Assembly*

Small Media has provided us the opportunity to create an online OONI
Training Course for their Advocacy Assembly project (
https://www.advocacyassembly.org/), which features a variety of training
courses for human rights defenders.

In February 2022, we started working on creating the online OONI training
course. We started off by reviewing several past Advocacy Assembly training
course scripts and videos in order to better understand how these courses
are structured. Based on this, we finalized the structure for the OONI
training course.

Structurally, the online OONI training course will entail the following 7
* Introduction to the course
* Introduction to internet censorship
* Measuring internet censorship
* Measuring internet censorship with OONI Probe
* Understanding OONI censorship measurement data
* OONI Explorer: Accessing real-time censorship measurement data
* Conclusion

Each chapter will dive into each topic in depth, providing participants
with videos, screencasts, slides, quizzes, and hands-on exercises.

Throughout February 2022, we created several hands-on exercises for the
course, and we wrote the scripts for 8 direct-to-camera videos for the
following (sub-)chapters:
* Introduction to the course
* What is internet censorship?
* The problem of internet censorship
* What is OONI Probe?
* Interpreting OONI data
* What is OONI Explorer?
* Looking at OONI data in aggregate
* Conclusion

In April 2022, we will travel to London to record the above videos (based
on the scripts we wrote) at a studio with Small Media.

*## ISOC Pulse project on Internet shutdowns*

OONI is a data partner for the Internet Society (ISOC) Pulse project on
Internet shutdowns (https://pulse.internetsociety.org/partners). We aim to
contribute OONI data (along with relevant charts and information) for all
the “content blocking” events listed on the ISOC Pulse shutdowns timeline (

To this end, we started off by creating an inventory of all ISOC Pulse
“content blocking” entries listed per year in their timeline (which span
from 2018 to date). We then created content for the “content blocking”
entries listed for 2022, including relevant OONI data, charts, and
interpretation, which we shared with ISOC (to include in their timeline).
We also started creating content (short reports) for the 2021 entries
listed in the ISOC Pulse shutdown timeline.

*## OTF Information Controls Research Fellows*

In February 2022, OONI started serving as the host organization for OTF
Information Controls Research Fellow, Ain Ghazal. Throughout their 1-year
fellowship, Ain will study censorship resistance systems in global VPN
infrastructure. Further information about their research fellowship is
available here: https://www.opentech.fund/about/people/ain-ghazal/

As of February 2022, OONI is excited to serve as the host organization for
a total of 3 OTF Information Controls Research Fellows. We are also hosting:
* Kathrin Elmenhorst (investigating HTTP/3 censorship):
* Gurshabad Grover (investigating the role of private ISPs in exacerbating
or minimizing the effects of state-ordered censorship):

*## Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2022 OONI project ideas*

Over the past years, we have submitted Google Summer of Code (GSoC) project
ideas for OONI via the Tor Project (

For the summer of 2022, we submitted the following OONI project ideas for
GSoC students:

OONI Probe Network Experiments
OONI Probe CLI Improvements
OONI Explorer Improvements

Further information is available here:

*## Collaboration with Netalitica*

Netalitica researchers continued to do excellent work in reviewing and
updating the Citizen Lab test lists. In February 2022, we reviewed their
updates to the test lists for Hungary (
https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/pull/892) and Poland.

*## Test list updates*

In response to (potential) censorship events, we contributed updates to the
following Citizen Lab test lists:
* Global: https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/pull/889,
* South Korea: https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/pull/891
* Turkey: https://github.com/citizenlab/test-lists/pull/911

We also reviewed and merged several test list pull requests contributed by
community members.

*## Emerging censorship events### New censorship events in Russia following
the invasion of Ukraine*

Following the invasion of Ukraine, Russia ramped up its censorship.
Real-time OONI data collected from Russia shed light on these new
censorship events as they emerged.

Starting from 26th February 2022, Russia started to throttle access to
Twitter and to block access to several independent news media websites. We
started off by sharing OONI findings on social media (
https://twitter.com/OpenObservatory/status/1497951299593281538) and with
mailing lists, while performing more extensive data analysis as new blocks
emerged. Based on our analysis, we wrote a research report, which we
published in early March 2022.

*### Twitch blocked in Iran*

Twitch was temporarily blocked in Iran on 27th and 28th February 2022. This
was detected and reported by community members in Iran who shared relevant
OONI data (https://twitter.com/xhdix/status/1497961275225214980/).

OONI data involving the block can be accessed and viewed through the
following MAT chart:

*## Notable community use of OONI Probe and OONI data### VEsinFiltro report
on the blocking of news media websites in Venezuela*

On 1st February 2022, our Venezuelan partner, VEsinFiltro, published a
report documenting the blocking of news media websites in Venezuela:

Their report makes use of OONI data, as well as network measurement data
collected from their own custom tools.

*### VEsinFiltro report on the blocking of circumvention tools in Venezuela*

On 7th February 2022, VEsinFiltro published a report documenting the
blocking of circumvention tools in Venezuela:

Their report makes use of OONI data, involving the analysis of measurements
collected from the OONI Probe Tor and Web Connectivity experiments.

*### ECOWAS court ruling on internet shutdown in Togo*

Togo’s internet shutdown amid protests in September 2017 was challenged in
the “Amnesty International Togo and Ors v. The Togolese Republic” case (
brought to the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West
African States (ECOWAS). In preparation for this case, the OONI team was
asked to share relevant technical expertise, along with other experts. We
analyzed the internet shutdown and shared a technical analysis in support
of the court case (

As an outcome, the Community Court of Justice of ECOWAS held that the
Togolese government violated the applicants’ right to freedom of expression
by shutting down the internet during protests in September 2017, and
ordered the Respondent State of Togo to take measures to guarantee the
“non-occurrence” of a future similar situation.

The ECOWAS court ruling on the September 2017 internet shutdown in Togo won
the Columbia University Global Freedom of Expression 2022 Significant Legal
Ruling Award (

*## Community activities### OONI workshop in Tanzania by Zaina Foundation*

On 28th February 2022, Zaina Foundation (our partner in Tanzania)
facilitated an OONI workshop as part of their broader Digital Security
Training for women journalists in Dar es Salaam (

*### OONI FAQ translated to Khmer by DigitalHub101*

Cambodian civil society group, DigitalHub101, published a version of the
OONI FAQ (https://ooni.org/support/faq/) in Khmer:

This new page features information in Khmer about OONI, OONI Probe, OONI
Explorer, and OONI research reports. We linked to their translated version
in the main OONI FAQ page to enable more community members to benefit from
the translation.

*### OONI Community Meeting*

On 22nd February 2022, we hosted the monthly OONI Community Meeting on our
Slack channel (https://slack.ooni.org/), during which we discussed the
following topics:

1) “Internet Protection Bill” in Iran
2) OONI measurement coverage from Zimbabwe

*## Userbase*

In February 2022, 36,927,939 OONI Probe measurements were collected from
2,556 AS networks in 158 countries around the world.

This information can also be found through our measurement stats on OONI
Explorer (see chart on “monthly coverage worldwide”):

~ OONI team.
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