Tracking Censorship Openly

On Monday, Andy Greenberg with Forbes wrote a blog post about the Open Observatory for Network Interference (OONI).  OONI is a new tool for helping to identify Internet censorship.  As I recently wrote on Google’s policy blog, identifying censorship, filtering, and other web blockages is a difficult challenge, and addressing it requires obtaining data from all different sources.  To that end, we’re glad to have OONI and the great minds behind the Tor Project working on this.

I wanted to clarify, however, some inaccuracies about Herdict from the article.  Arturo Filasto said of OONI:

This came from a bit of disappointment over the fact that all the existing tools out there for monitoring censorship were either not using open methodologies or not making their data available.

While I can’t speak for other projects, this certainly isn’t true for Herdict.  As a crowdsourced project, our methodology is both open and simple: when people can’t reach the content they want, they report it to us through our site, our browser add-on, Twitter, or e-mail.  Our data is open, too.  Those reports are immediately made available on our site, and we even have a query API for researchers to pull out as much of our data as they want or need.

We are and have always been strongly committed to openness.  Our mission is to bring transparency to Internet accessibility, and that requires being transparent about our data and methodology.  We look forward to working with OONI and others in bringing additional transparency and openness to the web.

About the Author: Ryan Budish

Ryan Budish is a fellow at the Berkman Center and the Director of Herdict, which uses crowdsourcing to present a real-time view of Internet accessibility around the world. Ryan received his J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

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