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‘Extremely aggressive’ internet censorship spreads in the world’s democracies

“The largest collection of public internet censorship data ever compiled shows that even citizens of what are considered the world’s freest countries aren’t safe from internet censorship. The University of Michigan team used its own Censored Planet tool, an automated censorship tracking system launched in 2018, to collect more than 21 billion measurements over 20 months in 221 countries. They recently presented a paper [see below] on the findings at the 2020 ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security. “We hope that the continued publication of Censored Planet data will enable researchers to continuously monitor the deployment of network interference technologies, track policy changes in censoring nations, and better understand the targets of interference,” said Roya Ensafi, U-M assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science who led the development of the tool…”

See also – “Censored Planet: An Internet-wide, Longitudinal Censorship Observatory.” The research team also included former U-M computer science and engineering student Prerana Shenoy and Katharina Kohls, an assistant professor at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. The research was supported in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation, Award CNS-1755841. “Remote censorship measurement techniques offer capabilities for monitoring Internet reachability around the world. However, operating these techniques continuously is labor-intensive and re-quires specialized knowledge and synchronization, leading to limited adoption. In this paper, we introduce Censored Planet, an online censorship measurement platform that collects and analyzes measurements from ongoing deployments of four remote measurement techniques (Augur, Satellite/Iris, Quack, and Hyperquack). Censored Planet adopts a modular design that supports synchronized baseline measurements on six Internet protocols as well as customized measurements that target specific countries and websites.Censored Planet has already collected and published more than 21.8 billion data points of longitudinal network observations over20 months of operation. Censored Planet complements existing censorship measurement platforms such as OONI and ICLab by offering increased scale, coverage, and continuity. We introduce anew representative censorship metric and show how time series analysis can be applied to Censored Planet’s longitudinal measurements to detect 15 prominent censorship events, two-thirds of which have not been reported previously. Using trend analysis, we find increasing censorship activity in more than 100 countries, andwe identify 11 categories of websites facing increasing censorship,including provocative attire, human rights issues, and news media.We hope that the continued publication of Censored Planet data helps counter the proliferation of growing restrictions to online freedom.”

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