[tor-project] OONI Monthly Report: October 2019
maria at openobservatory.org
Fri Nov 15 11:05:17 UTC 2019
In October 2019, the OONI team completed its 1-year contract with the
OTF (which started on 1st November 2018).
We thank the OTF for its generous support, which has helped the
OONI-verse grow and allowed us to build new and exciting tools for the
internet freedom community!
## Stable release of OONI Probe Desktop App for Windows and macOS
We released the stable version of the OONI Probe desktop app for Windows
and macOS: https://github.com/ooni/probe-desktop/releases/tag/v3.0.0-rc.3
From version 3.0.0-rc.2 onwards, auto-update support is enabled and
working on macOS and Windows. Users of the older beta versions may have
to do a hard reset of OONI Probe from the About screen page.
The new OONI Probe desktop app supports running the Websites, Instant
Messaging, Performance, and Middlebox tests, as well as configuring the
maximum number of tested URLs for the Websites test (which defaults to
the full test list).
We aim to publicly launch the new OONI Probe desktop app over the next
weeks, once we have received more feedback from community members and
have done more extensive testing of the app on more platforms.
## Stable release of OONI Probe Command Line Interface (CLI)
We released the stable version of the OONI Probe Command Line Interface
Prior to this, we also made other releases during October 2019:
## Stable release of OONI Probe engine
To enable the integration of tests and to otherwise improve OONI Probe
sustainability, we have been re-writing the OONI Probe measurement
engine (the software that implements OONI Probe nettests) from C++ to
The new OONI Probe measurement engine is available via the following
During October 2019, we made several releases:
The latest release of the OONI Probe engine is stable:
## Release of OONI Probe Mobile 2.2.0
We released the 2.2.0 version of the OONI Probe mobile app.
The latest 2.2.0 version:
* Uses less storage by automatically deleting old measurements and
fetching them from OONI Explorer
* Enables users to copy and share OONI Explorer links based on their
## Seamless integration between mobile and desktop apps
To have a more seemless integration between the OONI Probe mobile and
desktop apps, we integrated react-native
(https://facebook.github.io/react-native/) into the probe-android and
This allows us to maximize code sharing between the OONI Probe desktop
and the mobile apps, as well as making it possible for us to use our
in-house React expertise for OONI Probe Mobile development as well --
hence reducing the ongoing maintenance effort.
We used the About screen as an example to understand the possible
limitations to this approach and implemented it as a react-native
Some research was done into converting all of the ooni-components part
of our design system (https://github.com/ooni/design-system) to
react-native and we have understood that we will have to make some
changes to how we use the styled-components module. Specifically, we
have understood that we will have to refactor our code to use the
react-native specific styled-components wrapped when importing modules
into the react-native views.
We also spent some time researching the performance impact and
application size overhead associated with using react-native. See:
Based on all of this research, we have decided to postpone shipping the
react-native integration until we have more views implemented and we
have assessed the impact that the increased app size will have on our
We do still think this is something we should be doing, as it opens up
opportunities for us to start sharing code between desktop and mobile
apps for specific components, such as charts and tables. This will also
help ensure that the UX and design is more similar and familiar across
## Made OONI Probe testing more resilient to network outages
To make OONI Probe testing more resilient to network outages, we:
* used jafar to stress test netx and implemented retransmission of DNS
to improve DNS robustness
* made the “nervous resolver” fallback to DoH using Cloudflare, which is
also a way to increase robustness
The automatic fallback to DNS over HTTPS / DNS over TLS has been
designed in such a way that it will be triggered (without touching the
scoreboard) also in the event that the master DNS fails. This will be useful
to improve reliability when the master DNS used by the device is either
down or overloaded. We experienced this kind of transient outage both in
Cuba and in Italy, during a six-hour incident where Vodafone Italy DNS
infrastructure was down.
We also ensured that the new Go code has timeout settings in line with
the Go standard library and browsers like Firefox, thus further
increasing OONI Probe reliability.
A detailed explanation of what this work entailed (including relevant
code repositories) is available here:
## Implemented new OONI Probe nettests
To improve and expand upon OONI Probe measurement methodologies, we
implemented the following new nettests:
* Update to the latest ndt7: https://github.com/ooni/probe-engine/issues/70
* DASH rewrite that uses HTTPS:
* Telegram re-write using github.com/ooni/netx:
We have also integrated automatic follow-up measurements for:
* DNS over TLS / DNS over HTTPS fallbacks:
* SNI blocking detection: https://github.com/ooni/netx/pull/109
The DNS over TLS / DNS over HTTPS fallback is performed anytime we
resolve a domain name and we get a bogon IP (i.e. an IP that should not
be public, such as, for
example 10.0.0.1 or 127.0.0.1). In such cases, we record into a
scoreboard structure that we were served a bogon IP and fallback to DNS
over TLS or DNS over HTTPS.
SNI blocking detection is performed after a URL measurement; whenever we
see a TLS handshake failure that leads us to think that there may be SNI
injection, we run an additional follow-up test with a test helper
(example.com:443 in the current experimental code) with the SNI we
suspect being blocked and we also record the result into the scoreboard.
This design for follow-up experiments is also based on conversations
with Vinicius Fortuna (Jigsaw) regarding how to improve the OONI testing
This work intersects with the "Improve basic on device data analysis"
work. We chose a design where these new nettests are follow-ups, because
this enables us to collect richer measurements without the need to
prompt users to manually run follow-ups.
The above work was tracked through this master ticket:
We implemented these new nettests in probe-engine and we plan to ship
them as part of the OONI Probe apps over the next months.
## Ingested new metadata produced by new set of tests
Previously, the OONI data processing pipeline only ingested metadata
from OONI's Web Connectivity test.
We have now added support for ingesting and analyzing the metadata
produced by most OONI Probe tests:
* Facebook Messenger test
* Telegram test
* WhatsApp test
* HTTP header field manipulation test (for middlebox detection)
* Vanilla Tor connectivity test
* TCP connect test
* DASH test
* Meek test
We have also implemented basic handling (without scoring) of the
following OONI Probe tests:
* Psiphon test
* NDT test
This work was implemented as part of the fast-path pipeline in the
following pull request: https://github.com/ooni/pipeline/pull/242
## Improved basic on-device data analysis
To improve basic on-device data analysis (as mentioned above in
"Implementing new OONI probe nettests") we added support for the following:
* OONI Probe can detect bogus DNS replies and fallback to DNS over HTTPS
/ DNS over TLS
* OONI Probe flags the event where the TLS handshake failed with
connection reset and runs follow-up tests to determine whether it's a
case of SNI-based filtering
This work was tracked through the following ticket:
We also built Jafar (https://github.com/ooni/jafar ) -- a tool that
simulates a censored environment -- to ensure that our methods work as
## Reduced the latency of publication of uploaded measurements to less
To analyze and publish OONI measurements from around the world faster,
we built a fast-path pipeline: https://github.com/ooni/pipeline/pull/213
To reduce the latency of publication of uploaded measurements to less
than daily, we implemented fast-path support in the OONI API. This work
is available through the following pull request:
The database tables for the fast-path (which publish measurements daily)
are already getting populated and published.
The OONI API related changes (which will expose the most recent
measurements in OONI Explorer) are going to be shipped in production
sometime next week, as we are trying to avoid deploying too many
services at once.
## Added data processing pipeline heuristics for flagging relevant
blocking events for the RSS feed
To flag relevant blocking events and expose them via the RSS feed, we
added data processing pipeline heuristics to the fast-path pipeline and
ingested the metadata of most OONI Probe tests.
Our work on adding an event detector and RSS feed generation to the
fast-path pipeline is available via the following pull request:
Based on this, we have an internal web app that generates charts based
on blocking events. The event detector is currently running.
## Exposed blocking events in RSS feed hosted on OONI Explorer
Based on the event detector that we added to the fast-path pipeline
(https://github.com/ooni/pipeline/pull/228), we created an RSS feed for
exposing blocking events on OONI Explorer.
OONI Explorer now provides links to RSS feeds on events detected by the
fast-path pipeline event detector. The following feeds are to be made
available on OONI Explorer:
* Global feed (added to all pages)
* Country-specific feed (added to relevant country pages)
So far, we have deployed the global RSS feed which shows events on a
global scale and is available here: https://explorer.ooni.org/rss/global.xml
Soon thereafter, we are going to be adding the country-specific feed on
the OONI Explorer country pages.
This work was implemented through the following pull request:
For the time being, we are not going to be promoting the RSS feed
feature of OONI Explorer extensively as we need to use it more ourselves
and get feedback from trusted community members to avoid
mis-interpretation of the data.
## Ensured all our infrastructure is re-deployable
We worked on ensuring that all our infrastructure is re-deployable,
making it possible for us to recover from a disaster (a machine being
terminated) with minimal amount of downtime and be able to migrate to
up-to-date versions of Operating Systems to keep our infrastructure secure.
All of our work on ensuring that our infrastructure is re-deployable was
completed in October 2019 and tracked via this ticket:
As part of this work, we also coordinated with Greenhost to ensure the
redeployed hosts are using the eclips.is platform in the most
resource-conscious way possible. For example, several unnecessary hosts
have been terminated and some that did not require to be located in Hong
Kong or Amsterdam have been migrated to the Miami location which has
more availability of resources.
## Improved the availability of our infrastructure
We improved the availability of our infrastructure via the "oonification
of probe services".
The oonified bouncer, collector and orchestra backend are deployed and
serving clients. The pipeline is using the new collector and we
rolled-over all the collectors to the new probe-services oonified host.
Our work on oonifying the probe services is available via this pull
All of our work on improving the availability of our infrastructure was
tracked through the following ticket:
## Published report on the blocking of abortion rights websites
In collaboration with Coding Rights (Brazilian partner) and Women on
Waves / Women on Web, we published a report that examines the blocking
of abortion rights websites womenonwaves.org and womenonweb.org around
The report is available on the following sites:
* Coding Rights:
VPNCompare wrote an article about our report:
In this report, we share OONI data confirming the blocking of
womenonwaves.org in Brazil, as well as in Iran and Turkey.
We also share OONI data on the blocking of womeononweb.org in South
Korea, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.
We corroborated OONI findings by looking at Censored Planet data
(https://censoredplanet.org/) as well, shared in the report.
## Created community resources
To strengthen existing partnerships and better support OONI community
engagement efforts, we created several new resources, listed below.
### Created OONI Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section
To better support the OONI community, we created a Frequently Asked
Questions (FAQ) section: https://github.com/TheTorProject/ooni-web/pull/301
The OONI FAQ can also be viewed here:
The new OONI FAQ includes answers to 67 questions that fall under the
* About OONI
* OONI Probe
* Testing websites
* OONI data
* OONI Explorer
We included the questions that we have most frequently been asked over
the last years, as well as questions that have been raised by community
members during meetings, hackathons, workshops, usability studies, and
during other community interactions.
The new FAQ (along with all other content on the OONI website) is
published on github, and we welcome feedback and community
contributions. We aim to publish the FAQ on the OONI website and promote
it over the next few weeks.
As OONI tools and methodologies evolve, we will continue to update the
FAQ on an ongoing basis.
### Created OONI Glossary
To empower broader community participation in censorship measurement
research, we created a glossary which explains the terms used in the
OONI apps, methodologies, and research reports.
The new OONI Glossary is available on github (and we encourage review,
feedback, and community contributions):
The glossary can also be viewed here:
We aim to publish the glossary on the OONI website over the next few
weeks and we will promote it through our partner networks.
### Published OONI workshop slides
To enable our partners and the broader community to teach OONI Probe and
engage their local communities with censorship measurement research and
advocacy, we created and published OONI workshop slides:
These workshop slides cover the basics with regards to:
* OONI Probe test methodologies
* Running OONI Probe
* Potential risks associated with running OONI Probe
* How to reduce potential risk associated with running OONI Probe
* Contributing to test lists
* Customized website testing
* OONI Run: Coordinating custom OONI Probe testing
* Using OONI Explorer
* OONI API
* Interpreting OONI data
* Using OONI data
* How to get involved with the OONI community
We have published these OONI workshop slides on Google Slides so that
community members can:
* download the slides in the format of their choice
* edit and customize the slides (so that they're more relevant to their
local context and to the needs of the communities they teach)
Our edits to the OONI website to accommodate the publication of the OONI
workshop slides are available here:
The OONI workshop slides can be found through the Get Involved section
of the OONI website: https://ooni.org/get-involved/
### Published document for OONI Probe community engagement
Our partners have expressed the need for a document that they can share
to introduce new people to the use of OONI Probe.
To this end, we created a PDF document that summarizes key information
for getting started with running OONI Probe and engaging your community
with censorship measurement research:
Specifically, this document covers:
* About OONI Probe
* Running OONI Probe
* Testing websites
* Testing specific websites of your choice
* Testing a custom list of websites
The above information is shared through instructions, synthesized
information, and links for further reading.
Our edits to the OONI website to accommodate the publication of this
document are available here:
This document can be found through the Get Involved section of the OONI
### Updated OONI Run button page
Often when censorship events emerge (leading up to or during political
events, such as protests or elections), social media, news media, and
VPN sites are commonly blocked.
To enable the testing of specific types of websites and to support rapid
response to emergent censorship events, we set up a page which includes
OONI testing buttons: https://ooni.org/get-involved/run/
These buttons enable the OONI Probe testing of:
* Social media websites
* News media websites
* VPN sites
* Wikipedia sites
* Human rights sites
* Environmental sites
* LGBTQI sites
Rather than having to identify which social media websites (for example)
to test during an urgent censorship event, the OONI community can refer
to the buttons on this page for targeted testing. Apart from supporting
efforts related to rapid response, these OONI Run buttons can also
support research and advocacy efforts related to the customized testing
of the above categories of sites over time.
## Community use of OONI data
### Investigating the blocking of sci-hub and libgen in France
Community members hosted an OONI workshop in France to engage locals
with the use of OONI Probe in order to test the blocking of sci-hub and
libgen across different networks.
They shared their OONI Probe methodologies and findings through a series
of tweets: https://twitter.com/tenacioustek/status/1183715300283502592
They also shared the script they wrote to query results directly from
the OONI API:
## Community activities
### HacktoberFest 2019
OONI participated in HacktoberFest
The OONI github issues that were part of HacktoberFest are available
We received valuable contributions from HacktoberFest participants!
Across projects, we received 6 pull requests. Notably, the newly
launched OONI Explorer received 4 pull requests, one of which was a
major refactoring exercise: https://github.com/ooni/explorer/pull/336
### OONI workshop in Taiwan
Our Taiwanese partners, the Open Culture Foundation (OCF), hosted an
OONI workshop in Taipei on 17th October 2019.
Information about their workshop is available here:
### Manual for OONI Probe rapid response in Chile
Our Chilean partners, Derechos Digitales, created and published a manual
(in Spanish) which explains how to use OONI Probe:
The use of OONI Probe was heavily promoted by Derechos Digitales during
the protests in Chile:
### Blog post about OONI Probe
The Civilsphere Project (dedicated to supporting NGOs, journalists, and
human rights defenders) published a blog post (also in Spanish) where
they explain OONI and how to use OONI Probe (likely in response to the
protests in Chile):
In their blog post, Civilsphere discuss why it's important to measure
internet censorship, what OONI Probe can measure, how to run OONI Probe
(and associated potential risks), how to configure OONI Probe settings,
and how to find OONI data.
## Press coverage
CNET published an article about OONI (titled: "These watchdogs track
secret online censorship across the globe"):
OONI Probe was also listed as a tool to fight authoritarianism in the
In October 2019, OONI Probe was run 485,623 times from 5,561 different
vantage points in 214 countries around the world.
This information can also be found through our stats:
~ The OONI team.
Research & Partnerships Director
Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)
PGP Key Fingerprint: 2DC8 AFB6 CA11 B552 1081 FBDE 2131 B3BE 70CA 417E
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