Tor Project's New OONI-Probe Reveals Two Instances of Filtering

By: Qichen Zhang on 7 May 2012

The Tor Project's latest attempt to combat censorship around the world, the new Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) probe, collects data on individual computers about local interference with Internet access. The probe, developed by Tor engineers Arturo Filasto and Jacob Appelbaum, detects surveillance, active bandwidth limitations, and other types of network interference. According to OONI's mission statement, "This is a human rights observation project for the Internet. OONI seeks to observe levels of surveillance, censorship, and networked discrimination by networked authoritarian power structures."

OONI-Probe, the development of which was partially funded by Radio Free Asia, works via establishing a network on a number of computers that have the application downloaded and then testing the information flow between them. Filasto and Appelbaum say they created the tool in order to make data on censorship more accessible to the general public. Written in Python, the source code is freely available on GitHub.

In its aim to expose what they call the censored "Filternet," OONI has already revealed two cases of web censorship since its launch. The first revelation occurred domestically: the probe found that the T-Mobile's WebGuard tool, intended to allow users to set parental controls, blocked a number of websites including Newgrounds, Cosmopolitan Magazine, and the Tor Project itself. The second instance of censorship the tool located was in Palestine. In line with the recent media exposure of eight blocked news websites that opposed President Mahmoud Abbas, OONI-probe confirmed the takedown of these sites within Bethlehem.