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New mobile app tracks Internet censorship worldwide

The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), with support of DefendDefenders as a project partner, released “ooniprobe – Measure Internet Censorship & Performance”, a new, easy-to-use mobile app that will allow almost anyone to track and collect network censorship data that is now available on Google Play and iOs app stores.

    • OONI’s new mobile app is easy to use and allows you to monitor:
      Blocking of websites;
    • Presence of systems (“middle boxes”) that could be responsible for censorship and/or surveillance;
    • Speed and performance of your network.

Since OONI started monitoring global censorship events five years ago, we have seen that many cases of internet censorship around the world are politically motivated, aimed at stifling communications and access to information during protests, elections, and other political events. While we may all be familiar with such events, what we often lacked was evidence required to hold those responsible to account. What we also lacked was real-time understanding of how internet censorship was implemented, and therefore how it could be circumvented.

Now anyone who owns an Android or iOS smartphone can play an active role in uncovering information controls around the world.

OONI’s new mobile app not only allows you to see which websites are blocked, how, where, when, and by whom, but it also provides tips on how to circumvent the detected censorship. It also allows you to measure the speed and performance of your network, which can be useful in uncovering more covert forms of censorship, such as throttling (a censorship technique we have increasingly seen in Turkey and elsewhere around the world).

All network measurement data collected through OONI’s mobile app is published on OONI Explorer and on OONI’s measurement interface – unless you opt out. Open data allows third parties to conduct independent studies, to verify OONI findings, and to answer other research questions. It also allows us all to have a more accurate understanding of information controls around the world. With each test you run via OONI’s mobile app, you are playing an active role in increasing transparency of internet censorship.

ooniprobe is an investigatory tool and may therefore pose some risks. When you first install the app, we require you to answer a quiz correctly, demonstrating your understanding of potential risks.

We believe that access to information is a fundamental human right and therefore everyone should have the right and ability to examine their digital world and the restrictions that may be imposed on it.

“What Signal did for end-to-end encryption, OONI did for unmasking censorship. Most Africans rely on mobile phones as their primary means of accessing the internet and OONI’s mobile app allows for decentralized efforts in unmasking the nature of censorship and internet performance,” said Moses Karanja, a Kenyan researcher on the politics of information controls. “The possibilities are exciting for researchers, business and the human rights community around the world. We look forward to interesting days ahead.”

Learn more about OONI’s mobile app here or contact the OONI team with any questions you may have at [email protected].