The Scoop on Herdict Web

What Is Herdict Web?

As governments and institutions throughout the globe increasingly work to control the flow of information on the Internet, online filtration and censorship have become significant threats to speech on the web. Even worse, these efforts often go undetected. The groups responsible rarely (if ever) announce their intentions, and the precise details of online censorship regimes are equally difficult to track. Obviously, this complicates attempts by activists and researchers to respond to Internet filtration or blocking.

Herdict Web attempts to shed light on this previously opaque activity on the web by generating a dynamic map of information accessibility around the world. Developed by Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Herdict Web provides up-to-date reports on where and when sites are inaccessible, and what kinds of users are facing difficulty. In turn, it transparently makes this information openly available online for discussion and further exploration by the public at large.

But it requires one important ingredient: you.

How does it work?

Traditionally, research on internet filtration is a difficult, expensive, and time-consuming process. Researchers are deployed directly or make contact with a few local affiliates within a target country who run cross-checks on a set list of websites agreed on in advance. This approach has obvious limitations, not least of which is that the small number of individuals involved places practical limits on how comprehensive and how often tests can be made. Taking the insights of projects like SETI@Home, Herdict provides an open platform for all interested users to contribute in building a picture of information accessibility on the web. Anyone online can submit a report of inaccessibility independently, or use our webapp Herdict Reporter to check out sites of particular interest that we’ve been tracking. Collecting these individual experiences, Herdict then anonymizes this information and automatically aggregates the data to generate our map of the online landscape.

So What’s So Great About Herdict?

Make a Difference: Knowing is half the battle. Your efforts will help activists, researchers, and the press understand the evolving face of web filtration and online freedom.

Options A-Go-Go: No need to be limited, Herdict provides tons of ways to participate. For Firefox users, Herdict also provides a lightweight browser add-on that provides the latest data about the website you’re loading and lets you submit inaccessibility reports on the fly.

Constantly Updated Tracking: Interested in keeping an eye out for a particular part of the web? Herdict provides embeddable widgets and a treasure trove of perpetually updated RSS feeds so you can keep up-to-date about the latest reports of inaccessibility by website, country, and even ISP as they happen.

Stay Safe: Herdict respects the privacy of its users and recognizes the risks of participating in environments where online privacy might be in question. All data is rigorously anonymized before being made public.

Data, Data, Data: Like data? Be still your statistical heart. All the information collected by Herdict is available in easily parsable, regularly released data dumps to play with at your leisure.

About the Author: Tim Hwang

One Comment to “The Scoop on Herdict Web”

  1. North Georgia Cabin Rentals:

    Downloaded your addon and installing now.. will surely update here..

    This seems pretty interesting 🙂 Wish you a very good luck