Opened 13 months ago

Last modified 7 weeks ago

#28531 assigned task

Publish a snapshot of what PTs are needed for successful Tor use in each country

Reported by: arma Owned by: phw
Priority: Medium Milestone:
Component: Community/Outreach Version:
Severity: Normal Keywords: censorship, anti-censorship-roadmap-october, s30-o22a2, s30-o23a2, ux-team
Cc: ggus, mcs, pili, hellais, cohosh Actual Points:
Parent ID: #31279 Points:
Reviewer: Sponsor: Sponsor30-must


Several countries have deployed censorship that includes trying to block Tor in various ways. And places change their censorship over time. What does the big picture look like today?

We have a scattering of resources on this topic currently, e.g.:

  • OONI has "vanilla Tor" measurements in some countries.
  • We have anecdotal stories from talking to users in various places.

But what is the situation, this month, in every country? Which ones block the Tor directory authorities, which ones block the public relays, which ones block the default (i.e. included in tor browser) bridges, which ones enumerate bridges from and block them by IP address, which ones use DPI to detect and cut various pluggable transport connections, which ones throttle protocols they don't want, etc?

When Venezuela's CANTV ISP did their IP address based blocking, they also blocked the default obfs4 bridges, which led to confusion and then unfortunate headlines like the one from Access: "Venezuela blocks Tor". (Tor worked fine if you got a fresh bridge, even a vanilla bridge.)

In Taipei I talked to some central asia experts who told me about how Tor only works in a degraded way in Belarus in the default configuration "because a few years ago they blocked all the relay IP addresses, but they haven't updated their block since then".

We need up-to-date information about Tor blocking to provide advice to our users when they ask for support, and also we want it for preemptively including good advice in Tor Launcher's UI. Knowing historical trends will help us prioritize the development of new pluggable transports vs new distribution methods of existing transports.

So, how do we get this information?

One option is that in the glorious future, the standard OONI decks will have all of these tools built-in. But that future is a long way off, and maybe it should never even arrive, since some Tor transports are huge and have no business being bundled into a little mobile testing app.

I think we instead want some combination of the following two plans:

  • We have on-the-ground contacts in many countries, and it's often not just individuals but whole NGOs full of Tor enthusiasts. We should pull together our knowledge of who we know in each place, and ask them what they think the current situation is in their country, and talk to them regularly. We can prioritize the various countries that we think were, are, or might be trying to block Tor. Having these on-the-ground experts is going to be necessary no matter what else we add to the plan, and it's why I picked 'community outreach' as the ticket component.
  • We should build automated tools to assist people in assessing Tor censorship on their network -- to increase the accuracy of reports that we get, and to make the reports come with actual data that we can compare over time. This idea is #23839.

This ticket is for pulling together one big-picture report. But once we have one, we will want to find ways of keeping ourselves up to date over time.

Child Tickets

Change History (14)

comment:1 Changed 13 months ago by arma

Summary: Make a snapshot of what PTs are needed for successful Tor use in each countryPublish a snapshot of what PTs are needed for successful Tor use in each country

comment:2 Changed 13 months ago by mcs

Cc: mcs added

comment:3 Changed 13 months ago by pili

Cc: pili added

comment:4 Changed 12 months ago by gaba

Keywords: censorship added

comment:5 Changed 6 months ago by gaba

Keywords: ex-sponsor-19 added

Adding the keyword to mark everything that didn't fit into the time for sponsor 19.

comment:6 Changed 6 months ago by phw

Sponsor: Sponsor19Sponsor30-must

Moving from Sponsor 19 to Sponsor 30.

comment:7 Changed 5 months ago by phw

Cc: hellais cohosh added
Owner: changed from alison to phw
Status: newassigned

I created the following git repository to make progress on this:

The motivation is a sponsor 30 objective that requires Tor Browser to know what circumvention methods to use in each country. For example, there's no need to attempt to use the public network in China because it's blocked. We will need to curate "ground truth" data that tells Tor Browser what to do.

The git repository contains a CSV file that encodes how Tor is blocked in different countries. Have a look at the repository's README file to understand how the CSV file is structured. We can easily turn the CSV file into other file formats that are more convenient, e.g., JSON. I think we should start with something simple and iterate on the format as we go.

What do y'all think?

comment:8 Changed 5 months ago by gaba

Keywords: anti-censorship-roadmap-october added; ex-sponsor-19 removed

comment:9 Changed 4 months ago by phw

Parent ID: #31268

comment:10 Changed 4 months ago by phw

Parent ID: #31268

comment:11 Changed 2 months ago by gaba

Parent ID: #31279

comment:12 Changed 2 months ago by gaba

Keywords: s30-o22a2 added

comment:13 Changed 2 months ago by phw

Keywords: s30-o23a2 added

Actually, this ticket helps with two sponsor 30 activities.

comment:14 Changed 7 weeks ago by antonela

Keywords: ux-team added
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