OONI (the Open Observatory of Network Interference) is a key player in the battle against online censorship.
With censorship likely to grow during the coronavirus crisis, its role has never been more important but it comes into 2020 in excellent health and after a stellar 2019.
OONI’s annus mirabilis
The past twelve months have been a great year for OONI in a number of different ways.
Firstly, there were new versions of both their mobile and desktop OONI probe apps. The OONI probe is the tool used by OONI supporters across the world to send data on website blocking, network speeds, censorship, and more back to OONI HQ.
The new version of these apps offer a brighter, more user-friendly design, and make running OONI probe even more straightforward. They also include various new features such as enhanced website testing, an easy overview of your results, and a data usage feature to see how much data you are using by running the app.
The new mobile app is available now but the desktop version is yet to be launched. Be patient though, it is coming soon and will be well worth the wait.
Arguably an even bigger achievement is the delivery of near-real-time publication of all OONI measurements. This is a huge achievement because it means that OONI and its followers are now able to track the global online censorship situation as it happens.
This has been achieved thanks to a new fast-path pipeline development that lets OONI analysis and publish all data almost instantly.
OONI Explorer 2.0
OONI Explorer is the place to go to find all the data that OONI collects, collates, and reports upon. Every month in 2019, there were more than 8 million OONI Probe measurements collected from more than 4,000 networks in more than 205 countries around the world.
It is the place to go for internet censorship data and now, there is a new improved version of the site for you to enjoy. It features new and improved country pages packed with data and analysis, a vastly improved search tool, and a detailed and well-designed measurements page.
On the new homepage, there is also a regularly updated censorship highlights section which flags all the latest and most interesting online censorship incidents and the latest data captured by OONI.
The enhanced OONI Explorer page is crucial because this is where journalists and other stakeholders head to find the latest information about online censorship events.
By making OONI Explorer more user-friendly and accessible, they are increasing the likelihood of gaining media coverage of the information they are finding which in turn helps to improve public awareness of the growing threat online censorship poses around the world.
Improved technical aspects
The changes and improvements made to OONI over the past twelve months have not just been cosmetic ones. There have also been some fundamental enhancements in how OONI goes about its business too.
New OONI probe tests have been developed and follow-up measurements added to enhance understanding.
OONI has also built from scratch a censorship simulation tool called Jafar. The OONI team can use this simulation tool to run experiments to test their own tools but also to enhance their understanding of how different types of online censorship work in practice.
If that wasn’t enough, they have also launched an entirely new OONI Probe engine too. This has been rewritten on Go rather than C++ and by the end of this year, both their desktop and mobile apps will be running entirely off this new engine.
Partnerships and publications
OONI is only effective if people around the world come together to contribute, so the partnerships it forms with like-minded organisations around the world are very important.
In 2019, there were six new partnership with ASUTIC (Senegal), Fundación Internet Bolivia (Bolivia), the Open Culture Foundation (Taiwan), the Software Freedom Law Centre (India), COMPSUDEV (Cameroon) and Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (Mexico).
All of these partners will contribute data to OONI and there will be plenty more link-ups such as this into 2020 and beyond.
OONI is also taking part in more workshops and presentations around the world than at any time in the organisation’s history. It is also publishing more reports too with 13 coming out over the past year.
These reports each contain unique and revealing information about internet censorship events around the world. Some of the ones we have covered include the blocking of the BBC in Egypt and the global increase in LGBTQI censorship.
OONI will continue to blaze a trail for online rights and freedoms in 2020, regardless of the long-term implications of the coronavirus outbreak.
Current evidence suggests that its role has never been more important, so it is excellent to know that OONI is well-placed to take on the challenges that lie ahead.
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