Tor at the Heart: The OONI project
During the month of December, we're highlighting other organizations and projects that rely on Tor, build on Tor, or are accomplishing their missions better because Tor exists. Check out our blog each day to learn about our fellow travelers. And please support the Tor Project! We're at the heart of Internet freedom.
In this post we provide an overview of OONI, a project under The Tor Project.
The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) is a free software project under The Tor Project that aims to increase transparency about internet censorship around the world. To this end, OONI has developed multiple free software tests (called ooniprobe) that are designed to examine the following:
- Blocking of websites;
- Blocking of Instant Messaging software such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger;
- Blocking of Tor, proxies, VPNs, and sensitive domains;
- Detection of systems responsible for censorship, surveillance and traffic manipulation.
Anyone can run these tests to examine whether censorship is being implemented in their network. All data collected through ooniprobe is published and can serve as a resource for those who are interested in knowing how, when, and by whom internet censorship is being implemented. You can find OONI’s data in JSON format or via OONI Explorer: a global map for exploring and interacting with all the network measurement data that OONI has collected from 2012 to date.
Hundreds of volunteers have run ooniprobe across more than 100 countries around the world, shedding light on multiple instances of internet censorship. WhatsApp, for example, was found to be blocked in Brazil earlier this year, while Facebook and Twitter were censored during Uganda’s 2016 general elections. OONI data also shows that news websites were blocked in Iran and India, amongst many other countries, and that sites supporting LGBTI dating also appeared to be tampered with in Zambia.
OONI aims to equip the public around the world with data that can serve as evidence of internet censorship events. Such data not only shows whether a site or service was blocked, but more importantly, how it was blocked, when, where, and by whom. This type of information can be particularly useful to the following:
- Lawyers: Examine the legality of the type of internet censorship implemented in your country, and use OONI’s data as evidence.
- Journalists: Improve the credibility of your stories by referencing network measurement data as evidence of censorship events.
- Researchers: Use OONI’s data to explore new questions. Researchers from the University of Cambridge and UC Berkeley, for example, were able to examine the differential treatment of anonymous users through the use of OONI data.
- Activists, advocates, campaigners: Inform your work based on evidence of censorship events.
- Circumvention tool projects: Inform the development of your tools and strategies based on OONI’s findings on censorship events around the world.
To empower participation in censorship research, OONI has established partnerships with local non-profit organizations around the world. Some of these organizations include:
- Sinar Project (Malaysia)
- Coding Rights (Brazil)
Centre for Intellectual Property & Information Technology Law (Kenya)
Derechos Digitales (Chile)
Open Net Korea (South Korea)
The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (Uganda)
These partnerships involve the daily collection of network measurements from local vantage points, determining which sites and services to test per country, and analyzing measurements within social, political, and legal context. Some partners, such as Sinar Project, even organize regional workshops to teach other groups and organizations how to measure internet censorship through the use of ooniprobe.
The Tor Project has supported the OONI project from day 1. Donate to The Tor Project today and help us continue to uncover internet censorship around the world.
Written by Maria Xynou, OONI’s Research and Partnerships Coordinator