The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) is a free software project under The Tor Project which aims to empower decentralized efforts in increasing transparency of internet censorship around the world.
"A new tool wants to make it easy to track internet outages and help people learn how to circumvent them."
OONI monitors networks for censorship and surveillance, is launching Ooniprobe, a mobile app to test network connectivity and let you know when a website is censored in your area.
With the help of ooniprobe, you can run to examine the following:
- Blocking of websites;
- Blocking of instant messaging apps (such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger);
- Blocking of censorship circumvention tools (such as Tor);
- Presence of systems ("middleboxes") in your network that might be responsible for censorship and/or surveillance;
- Speed and performance of your network.
By running ooniprobe, you can collect data that can serve as evidence of internet censorship since it shows how, when, where, and by whom it is implemented.
Thanks to tens of thousands of ooniprobe users around the world, millions of network measurements have been collected from more than 200 countries since 2012. All network measurement data is published on OONI Explorer, arguably the largest publicly available resource on internet censorship to date.
You can use the three tests to evaluate different aspects of your connection. The Web Connectivity test checks to see if any websites are blocked and how (if there are any). It looks for DNS tampering, TCP/IP blocking, or a transparent HTTP proxy. Once you know how a website is censored, you can figure out how to get around the block.
The HTTP Invalid Request Line test was built to look for evidence of proxy technologies that have been implemented in a network for censorship, surveillance, or traffic manipulation. This test can be hit or miss, though, and may present false positives. Take it with a grain of salt.
Finally, ooniprobe contains a fairly standard speed test. Nothing special here: the app will download and upload random bits of data to get a feel for your overall network and connection.
Remember that all of the data gathered is published for equal and unrestricted access. OONI is, of course, free and open-source software (FOSS) with all source code available for perusal. More tests are planned for the app's future, so be looking for further updates.
To test connectivity, Ooniprobe mimics what a browser does when you connect to a website. It tries to establish a connection to a site's IP address and download the webpage. OONI compares the activity to the same test on an uncensored network. If it doesn't match, the site is likely being censored.
OONI monitors networks in more than 90 countries through its desktop and hardware trackers, which are available to anyone. It publishes censorship data on its site. The organization has confirmed censorship cases in a number of countries, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Ethiopia and Sudan.
By introducing a mobile app, OONI can reach more people potentially affected by internet outages, especially in emerging markets where smartphones are more common than computers.
Ooniprobe tests web connectivity to not only figure out whether sites are blocked, but how they are being censored. For instance, an internet service provider can initiate a DNS-based block, so when you try to connect to a specific website, the page will say the domain is unknown or blocked. Ooniprobe can also check whether IP addresses are blocked, and looks for "middleboxes" or network devices that manipulate web traffic.
If the app detects a site is censored, it will list ways of getting around it. For instance, Ooniprobe might tell you to visit "HTTPS" versions of sites to circumvent "HTTP" blocking, or to download the Tor browser or the Orbot Android app. (Ooniprobe is used to find specific instances of censorship -- if the entire internet was blacked out, you would know.)