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OONI is looking for a UX designer!

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Passionate about design and Internet freedom?

The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), a free software project under The Tor Project that aims to uncover Internet censorship by monitoring its prevalence around the world, is seeking a UX designer.

Up until recently, users would run OONI’s software (ooniprobe) from the command line. Soon we aim to release both a desktop (web based) and mobile client that will enable users to run ooniprobe from a graphical user interface. We want to make the user interface as usable and graphically appealing as possible to engage more users.

If you’re interested in designing the interface of OONI’s new desktop and mobile clients, please don’t hesitate to apply! Information on how to apply can be found here.

The Tor Project is Hiring a Developer for OONI!

Are you a software engineer passionate about internet freedom and transparency? The Tor Project is hiring a full-time developer to work on OONI!

What’s OONI?

The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) is a free software effort of the Tor Project which aims to detect online censorship and traffic manipulation around the world through the collection of network measurements.

OONI is based on free software tests that are designed to measure:

  • Blocking of websites
  • Systems responsible for censorship, surveillance and traffic manipulation
  • Reachability of Tor, proxies, VPNs, and other systems

Since 2012, OONI has collected more than 9.5 million measurements across 96 countries, all of which are public and provide evidence and data to back up claims of network manipulation.

Why join OONI?

OONI is in a unique position to bring transparency to technical censorship. You can play a key part in keeping the web free and neutral.

By joining the team, you will play an important role not only in paving the road for a better interference detection system, but you will also be responsible for software run by activists around the world. Your work will help reveal unlawful censorship and surveillance around the world and aid the work of human rights defenders.

Becoming an OONI-tarian

As a core OONI developer, you will contribute to some of our active development efforts, including:

These tasks will increase the impact of the millions of measurements that OONI is currently hosting, the hundreds of vantage points around the world, and the future of censorship measurement.

Learn more and apply to join the OONI team as a core developer here.

OONI Bridge reachability study and hackfest

Has a Tor bridge already been blocked in a given country? Being able to answer that question would allow Tor to provide more efficient circumvention methods to those who need them. OONI, the Open Observatory of Network Interference is now actively collecting data on bridge reachability. We are also interested in having a better understanding of how reactive censors are in blocking new bridges distributed via Tor Browser and how effective they are at inhibiting usage of particular pluggable transport.

The countries we are focusing on in this survey are China, Iran, Russia and Ukraine. We call these our test vantage points.

From every test vantage point we perform two types of measurements:

To establish a baseline to eliminate the cases in which the bridge is marked as blocked, while it is in fact just offline, we measure also from a vantage point located in the Netherlands.

So far we have collected about a month worth of data and it is as always publicly available for download by anybody interested in looking at it.

To advance this study at the end of October we did a OONI hackfest in Berlin. Helped by the ubiquitous sticky notes we were able to come up with a plan for those days of work and for continuing the project.

The first visualisation we produced is that of the reachability of bridges categorised by country and pluggable transport over time. This simple visualisation already conveys a lot of information and has proven itself a useful tool also in debugging issues with ooniprobe and the tools we use.



You can visit the actual page by clicking on the picture above.
Please note that because the tests are new and experimental you might find inaccuracies or bugs, so don't seriously rely on it for research just yet.

We also developed a data pipeline that places all of the collected OONI reports into a database. This makes it much easier to search/aggregate and visualise the data of the reports.

To read more about this project check out the ooni-dev mailing list thread on this topic.

This project is still in it's very early stages of development, but we would love to hear feedback on it or your cool visualization ideas, as well as any questions regarding Tor bridge reachability (or more in general on Internet censorship) that you would like us to answer!

Politically motivated censorship in Bethlehem, Palestine

The internet agency Hadara is restricting access to certain content for users in Bethlehem, Palestine. The content of the websites in question appears to be in support of Muhammad Dahlan, the former leader of Fatah.

The Hadara network in Palestine is using a transparent HTTP proxy to inspect content and to censor the content of specific sites. A transparent HTTP proxy intercepts all of the customer's access attempts, technically the HTTP requests being done on the network by the customer's browser, and then the proxy makes requests in place of the client. Sometimes this is a good thing, especially on congested networks or very expensive network connections. This is useful because the proxy can serve the cached version of the requested object if it already has the most up to date version of the requested page; therefore an ISP may minimize the amount of traffic that needs to leave it's network. Sometimes it's a bad thing, such as when the ISP censors access to an otherwise normally available resource.

We've found that the Hadara transparent HTTP proxy is not being used simply to decrease webpage loading times or to reduce costs. It is also being used to censor access and to block content. The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), did a scan of over 1 million websites to understand which ones where being censored and which were freely accessible.

The OONI scanning techniques involved connecting to a known good HTTP server and making HTTP GET requests. Each GET request contained specially crafted Host header field that contained a given possibly blocked website. These requests were intercepted by the transparent HTTP proxy and when the site was present inside of the blocklist, it would return an error page, rather than the expected content.

In each case of a blocked page, the error page would be served immediately (without requiring a connection to the outside network) it was possible to parallelize a large amount of simultaneous connections and to set a very low timeout value. Because of this we were able to probe access for the Alexa top 1 million domains in less than 7 days.

At the moment there has not been any official response from the ISP in question and the actors responsible for the censorship have not come out. We believe that the access to information is an intrinsic human right and measures that limit people ability to read should be fought.

For more technical details check out the full report on the OONI webpage.

For the journalistic stories relating to this filtering, please see the article on Ma'An and this post on EFF.

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