China started blocking OONI
On 7th July 2023, China started blocking access to our website (
ooni.org) and censorship measurement app (OONI Probe).
The following graph aggregates OONI measurement coverage from the testing of
ooni.org across networks in China between 1st June 2023 to 25th October 2023.
ooni.org on 17 ASNs in China between 1st June 2023 to 25th October 2023 (source: OONI MAT).
As is evident, all measurements failed on 7th July 2023, and most measurements collected thereafter either failed or presented anomalies. While measurements are generally annotated as “failed” when the OONI Probe experiment fails to perform as expected (for example, as the result of a bug), such measurements can also be symptomatic of censorship. Meanwhile, measurements are annotated as “anomalies” when they present signs of internet censorship.
It’s worth noting that OONI measurements collected from the testing of
ooni.org in China were previously (mostly) successful, showing that
ooni.org was accessible on tested networks in China before 7th July 2023. Through a more detailed data analysis, we conclude that
ooni.org is blocked by means of both DNS injection and TLS interference. DNS blocking consists of injecting responses containing invalid IP addresses. TLS blocking consists of interfering with the TLS handshake and resetting the TCP connection.
China also appears to be attempting to prevent OONI Probe users from submitting measurements. For starters, this is suggested by the large and persistent drop in OONI measurement coverage from China, suggesting that most OONI Probe users in China may not have been able to submit measurements for publication.
To block OONI Probe, ISPs in China would have to block our backend services, preventing OONI Probe users from submitting measurements. We therefore analyzed OONI data (collected through the use of Snowflake as a proxy) pertaining to the testing of our API and test helpers. As part of our analysis, we found that our API and test helpers are blocked by means of DNS tampering, TLS interference, and IP blocking.
In response to the block, we shared circumvention advice. While access to
ooni.org remains blocked in China, the overall OONI measurement coverage from China has increased in recent months nonetheless.
Learn more through our research report.