Next Generation OONI Explorer Launched!
Today the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) team is thrilled to announce the public launch of the revamped, next generation OONI Explorer!
OONI Explorer is an open data resource on internet censorship around the world. This new platform offers access to millions of censorship measurements collected from 233 countries since 2012.
About OONI Explorer
Why use OONI Explorer?
OONI Explorer is likely the largest, publicly available network measurement resource on internet censorship to date. Thanks to OONI Probe users around the world (who run censorship measurement software every day), 280 million network measurements have been collected from 18,000 networks in 233 countries since 2012. All of these measurements are openly available on OONI Explorer.
You can use OONI Explorer to uncover evidence of internet censorship worldwide. Every day, hundreds of thousands of new measurements are published from around the world. OONI Explorer is an expanding public archive on global internet censorship.
Some questions that you can answer via OONI Explorer include:
Blocking of websites. Which websites are blocked and by which ISPs? How are websites blocked (i.e. which censorship techniques)? How does the blocking of websites differ across ISPs and over time?
Network speed and performance. What is the speed and performance of tested networks? How does it change over time and across networks?
Middleboxes. Are there signs of network tampering on tested networks? Which middleboxes (network devices) are used by ISPs? Are these middleboxes known to implement internet censorship and/or surveillance?
You can also use OONI Explorer to independently verify our findings (published through our research reports), and to expand upon our research. Through open data, we aim to support reproducible research.
Who is OONI Explorer for?
OONI Explorer is our gift to all OONI Probe users. But it is also for:
Human rights defenders. Inform your advocacy efforts based on censorship events and trends identified around the world through OONI data.
Journalists. Enhance the credibility of your stories by referencing network measurement data as evidence of censorship events. Discover unreported censorship stories through OONI data.
Lawyers. Examine the legality of censorship events identified through OONI data. Consider using OONI data as evidence in court cases.
Researchers. Explore your own research questions through OONI network measurement data.
Circumvention tool projects. Inform the development of your tools and strategies based on information about censorship events around the world.
The public. Keep your government and your Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to account.
What’s new in OONI Explorer 2.0?
OONI Explorer was originally launched in March 2016. For the first time, OONI censorship measurements were openly published in a web platform that enabled human rights defenders and social science researchers without a technical background (i.e. having to parse JSON files) to explore them and to independently discover cases of internet censorship around the world. However, presenting technical data to the general public - without reducing the data or creating the risk for misinterpretation - has been a challenge, and the initial version of OONI Explorer had many limitations.
Thanks to years of incredibly valuable community feedback, we are now launching the next generation OONI Explorer. The new OONI Explorer features a major UI overhaul with improved design and UX. The codebase was re-written entirely to react.js (using next.js) to enable code-sharing across different OONI software projects (and therefore improve its maintainability), to be able to use the OONI API directly, and to be able to iterate faster and adapt to user needs (for example, the new OONI Explorer codebase will enable us to add support for translations).
With OONI Explorer 2.0, our goal is to improve the usability of the platform and to support more advanced search functionalities in order to simplify and enable the process of exploring measurements and discovering censorship events. We also aim to provide deeper insight of internet censorship on a country level.
Below we share some highlights from OONI Explorer 2.0.
Revamped country pages
The OONI Explorer country pages have been completely revamped! Previously, the main functionality of the OONI Explorer country pages was the search tool for filtering individual measurements.
Now, with the new OONI Explorer country pages, you are provided an overview of internet censorship in each country, as well as access to measurements that enable you to explore each censorship case in more depth. You are also presented with detailed stats on measurement coverage, which you can explore based on different OONI Probe tests and on all tested networks.
Blocking of websites
At a glance, you can view which websites were most recently blocked in each country via OONI Explorer.
OONI Explorer country pages provide an overview of the most recently blocked websites (when block pages are served), but you can also dig deeper and explore the measurements pertaining to each tested URL (by clicking on “Explore more measurements”). These results will automatically get updated as new measurements are collected from OONI Probe users in each country.
When you first visit an OONI Explorer country page, you will be presented with results collected from networks that were tested the most (and are therefore likely more reliable). By selecting the AS drop-down menu in the top, left corner, you can filter the results to view measurements collected from other tested networks. This enables you to compare the blocking of websites across different ISPs.
You will also view a timeline of the recent measurement coverage pertaining to each tested URL. You can use these timelines to track the blocking and unblocking of specific websites over time. We also share these timelines to enable users to evaluate results with more confidence, particularly since confirming internet censorship can be tricky, and false positives can emerge. If, for example, a website was always accessible every time it was tested on a specific network and it only presented an anomaly once in recent testing, it’s likely the case that that anomaly was a false positive. If, on the other hand, a website consistently presents anomalies every time that it is tested on the same network, it’s likely the case that that ISP is blocking access to that site.
In short, rather than looking at results individually, it’s best when they are examined within a timeline and within a larger dataset - which is what the new OONI Explorer country pages aim to enable.
The new OONI Explorer country pages share a greater amount of granularity in terms of measurement coverage (in comparison to the old OONI Explorer). Specifically:
Measurement coverage by test class. You can view the volume of measurements collected from each OONI Probe test over the last month in each country. The stats in the graph show how many websites have been tested, how many (and which) OONI Probe tests have been run, and how many networks have been tested. This information can be useful in interpreting and evaluating measurements, and can help inform relevant outreach strategies (for example, if instant messaging apps haven’t been tested in a specific country, it may be worth prioritizing OONI Probe community engagement for relevant tests in that country).
Measurement coverage per tested URL. As discussed, you can view how many times each tested URL has been measured across different networks within each country. This is helpful in tracking the blocking and unblocking of websites, as well as in evaluating measurements within a timeline and within a larger dataset.
Measurement coverage per OONI Probe Instant Messaging (IM) test. You can view the measurement coverage across networks based on OONI Probe tests for WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram. This enables the comparison of testing across networks and the identification of networks which could benefit from more testing.
Comparison of networks
As internet censorship can vary from network to network within each country, one of our goals with the new OONI Explorer is to show this variance and to enable the comparison of internet censorship (and other forms of network interference) across networks. This can be useful in supporting censorship circumvention strategies.
The new OONI Explorer country pages feature results from circumvention tool tests (currently, measurements collected from the OONI Probe Vanilla Tor test), which you can compare across all local networks from which tests were run.
You can therefore, at a glance, check in which networks circumvention software, like Tor, works - and in which networks it’s blocked.
Thanks to support from the Measurement Lab, we were able to import analyzed measurements from the NDT and DASH tests, which measure network speed and performance, and video streaming performance respectively. The new OONI Explorer now features the average upload, download, and ping per network.
This can be useful in evaluating and comparing network speed and performance across different ISPs in each country.
With the new OONI Explorer, you can now explore all measurements with a powerful search tool.
The new OONI Explorer search tool features the following exciting filters:
You can now quickly and easily view all the most recently tested websites that have been confirmed blocked based on OONI’s methodologies. By selecting “Confirmed”, you can filter all measurements to view those where block pages are served for websites around the world.
In many cases, ISPs don’t serve block pages, but block websites using different (and more subtle) censorship techniques (such as DNS tampering and IP blocking). Confirming those cases automatically can be tricky, particularly since network anomalies can emerge due to transient network failures and other reasons which may have nothing to do with intentional blocking.
We have therefore added an “anomaly” filter in the new OONI Explorer which enables you to explore measurements that presented anomalies. Many of the anomalous measurements include evidence of internet censorship, but others may contain false positives. We encourage you to use this new filter to explore anomalous measurements in depth and to uncover cases of internet censorship.
You can now filter measurements based on the Autonomous System Number (ASN) of Internet Service Providers (ISPs). For example, if you’re interested in searching measurements collected from Vodafone Italia, type AS30722 (which is the ASN of Vodafone Italia) in the ASN field and click “Filter Results”. Usually, you can easily find the ASN of ISPs by googling the ISP name and ASN (such as “Vodafone Italia ASN”).
This was probably one of the top feature requests we received from researchers, since it allows for an easy/quick comparison of censorship across ISPs.
Similarly to the previous OONI Explorer, the new OONI Explorer features measurement pages for every individual test. Through these pages, you can gain an overview of the testing result (for example, whether and how a tested website was blocked), as well as access to the raw network measurement data (which can potentially serve as evidence of internet censorship).
In addition to improved design (consolidated with the new design of the OONI Probe mobile apps), the new measurement pages enable you to download the raw measurement data in JSON format.
So what can you learn from OONI Explorer?
Through the Highlights section on the landing page of the revamped OONI Explorer, we share a few examples (based on OONI data) of:
Censorship during political events
Blocking of LGBTQI sites
Censorship changes around the world
For each case, we link to relevant research reports based on OONI data, as well as to Search pages on OONI Explorer that provide pre-filtered measurements. This enables you to not only learn more details about each censorship case through the published research reports, but to also explore the raw data pertaining to each censorship event.
Given that OONI Explorer hosts millions of measurements from thousands of networks from more than 200 countries - spanning all the way back to 2012 and expanding every day with the publication of hundreds of thousands of new measurements - it’s hard to pick a few highlights. And determining a “highlight” can be really subjective. So while we share a few examples of censorship worldwide based on our studies (in collaboration with our local partners), OONI Explorer is a gold mine waiting to be explored!
We encourage you to dig through OONI Explorer measurements and to share censorship stories with the world.
OONI Explorer wouldn’t exist without the hundreds of thousands of OONI Probe users who measure internet censorship in more than 200 countries every month – often even in high-risk environments. We thank every single OONI Probe user out there.
We thank the community members who participated in the more recent OONI Explorer usability studies, as well as all community members who participated in usability studies and otherwise shared feedback over the years. We also thank our partners for providing detailed feedback during the OONI Partner Gathering in 2017, and for continuing to share feedback on how to improve OONI Explorer over the years.
OONI Explorer contributors:
Sarath M S - Lead developer
Elio Qoshi - Design
Antonela Debiasi - Design
Gaba - Project management
Arturo Filastò - Project management and backend development
Maria Xynou - Copy and user research