Announcing magma project

December, 18, 2018
Vasilis Ververis


Magma aims to build a scalable, reproducible, standard methodology on measuring, documenting and circumventing internet censorship, information controls, internet blackouts and surveillance in a way that will be streamlined and used in practice by researchers, front-line activists, field-workers, human rights defenders, organizations and journalists.

In recent years, a number of research fellows, journalists, human rights activists, lawyers as well as a larger activist community, have been working in high-risk contexts, which create the need to consider their qualitative and quantitative research data as highly sensitive. Albeit their competitiveness and high qualification in their respective areas (social and political science, usability, law, political economy analysis), they can rarely claim to have a specific expertise or extensive experience regarding networks services and systems, telecommunication infrastructure, applied data analysis of network measurements, internet censorship, surveillance and information controls.

Ideally, researchers working with various network measurement tools and frameworks such as the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), should have qualified technical help and assistance, thus enabling them to develop appropriate testing methodologies, suiting exactly their research environment and needs.

Magma aims to build a research framework for people working on information controls and network measurements, facilitating their working process in numerous ways. As such, this framework will enable them to properly structure an activity plan, make informed choices regarding the required tools (including numerous ways.

Through Magma, we wish to provide our expertise and experience in network measurements, internet censorship research, assessment of ISP network, surveillance probing and data analysis in order to:

Asses the risks by providing, implementing and maintaining technologies
demanded by researchers on front-lines and areas where the need of
operational security, anti-surveillance and censorship circumvention is of
paramount importance.

Provide tailored technical assistance, developing at the same time
appropriate testing methodology for network measurements, evaluation and
analysis of data and reports that correspond to the respective research

On a long-term basis, build a scalable and reproducible methodology for
collecting, evaluating and analyzing data and reports’ self-defense for
front-line researchers, front-line activists, field-workers, human rights
defenders, organizations and journalists, by keeping exact documentation.

Previous research

Below, we list some examples of potential future research around internet censorship, information controls and surveillance, mainly based on conducting networks measurements and analyzing its results:

A study on Tor network and media websites blockages, network bandwidth throttling and malicious network packet injections that contained malware and advertising content.

A study to determine how WhatsApp has been blocked after a judge’s court order all over the country of Brazil.

An extensive large scale research analyzing the policies and techniques used to block content deemed as illegal by a state identifying transparency problems, collateral damage and the implications of over or under blocking.

A study on a (non malicious) technical issue that leads to the interference and non accessibility of a regional news media outlet throughout several different network and countries.

To this respect, we would like to hear from all of you who are interested in researching information controls and internet censorship, and are intrigued to better understand how to work with network measurements and analyze data from various data sources and OONI reports.

We wanted to keep this post as concrete and terse as possible to encourage both technical and non-technical entities and individuals to get in touch with us, even if they are currently engaged in an undergoing project. The results of this collaboration will help form a complete guideline handbook expressed by the needs of the communities that work, or conduct research, in this field.

Please use any communications channel (listed in contact page) to get in touch with us.