ORG Censorship Monitoring Project

What's the problem?

Filtering technologies are being promoted by government as a means to prevent children from accessing inappropriate sexual material. However in practice, many more people are finding themselves behind filters, which block a much wider range of material. Sometimes, like blogs or forums, this may be deliberate but not really necessary, while at other times, it can be by mistake.

This makes filters unnecessarily disruptive to the Open Internet and very difficult for website owners to understand what is happening, and correct or limit damage.

Other censorship

Other censorship is mandatory but not well documented, starting with copyright blocks. Here, court orders allow the claimant to order ISPs to block any domain or sometimes IP address that is serving copies of the original. Orders are usually drafted to be indefinite and blocking pages do not explain the legal basis not how to complain or correct mistakes.

This will have some impact on the reports we receive of blocks on networks.

How can we solve that?

  • We want to document and understand the extent of the problem.
  • We want to create an easier route for people to discover and complain when their site is blocked, extending
  • We want to use this evidence to argue for lighter approaches, that do not try to induce excessive use of filters.

What the project is doing

Website for users to ask for website tests

Building on we want users to be able to ask for a website to be tested for blocks. Unlike the current set up, users might not know their site is blocked, but merely suspect, or want to check.

Probes to test for blocks

The ORG Censorship Monitoring Project aims to deploy a number of probes on both mobile and fixed-line ISPs. These probes - based on the OONI Project - will be able to test whether a particular URL is blocked on an ISP.

Some probes would likely to be ‘trusted’, i.e. under ORG’s direct control.

Others would be provided by people like you.

For instance, we are experimenting with an Android client that will allow people to help us test blocking in the 'wild'.

We have also had offers to build desktop clients for people to help us test at home.

API for the probes to submit information

The probes will need to submit their reports to our database. We will need to know what network they are on and blocking settings are present.

Database (“middleware”) to store and analyse the reports

We will keep a list of blocking reports and try to learn what sites are blocked and why.

Some information will be more trusted than other information, for instance from ORG-run probes.

Bulk testing

We could also widen the project by using large lists of websites to do bulk testing, perhaps starting with the most commonly visited websites.

Project resources

Currently there is an outline of the initial architecture and a draft functional specification / collection of user stories.

You can also find the code on Github:

How you can help

The project is in its early development stages and is being co-ordinated on the ORG Tech Volunteers mailing list. You are welcome to sign up if you would like to contribute.