[FACT comments: We have been talking about distributed network reporting of censored websites for some time. Herdict makes doing your netizen’s civic duty easy. Don’t be a sheep! Test your ISP in Thailand.
Use Herdict’s results to look at the sites Thai government doesn’t want you to see using anonymous proxies or VPN. We suggest, in your spare time, entering the URLs in the “Participate” column, “Test a Specific Site” at http://www.herdict.org/web/ from Thailand’s leaked MICT blocklists, and the blocklists from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Romania and Turkey, available on FACTsite for testing.
We think Herdict is the best invention since sliced bread! What remains to be seen is whether Thai government will block Herdict or allow us to force government transparency in censorship.]
Have you ever come across a web site that you could not access and wondered, ”Am I the only one?” Herdict Web aggregates reports of inaccessible sites, allowing users to compare data to see if innacessibility is a shared problem. By crowdsourcing data from around the world, we can document accessibility for any web site, anywhere.
Today, a special announcement from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. We are pleased to announce the official launch of Herdict Web –
– a tool that employs the distributed power of the Internet community to provide insight into what users around the world are experiencing in terms of web accessibility.
We invite everyone to explore http://www.herdict.org and participate by reporting websites that they cannot access, testing sites that others have reported, or downloading the browser add-on for reporting sites on the fly.
Herdict is a portmanteau of ‘herd’ and ‘verdict.’ Using Herdict Web, anyone anywhere can report websites as accessible or inaccessible. Herdict Web aggregates reports in real time, permitting participants to see if inaccessibility is a shared problem, giving them a better sense of potential reasons for why a site is inaccessible. Trends can be viewed over time, by site and by country.
The project’s mascot — a sheep — demonstrates “the verdict of the herd” in a short video at http://www.herdict.org (or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NggzBHSXdCo). We built the site. We built the sheep. We tested it all. Herdict is the only site for reporting inaccessibility of websites worldwide.
The brainchild of Professor Jonathan Zittrain (The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It ), Herdict Web builds out from the OpenNet Initiative’s research on global Internet filtering. The OpenNet Initiative tests Internet filtering through an academic methodology. Herdict Web takes a different approach, crowdsourcing reports to learn about and display a real-time picture of user experiences around the globe. For more information about the OpenNet Initiative and the book Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering, visit http://opennet.net.
Testing Thailand is way more fun than any video game! Go to http://www.herdict.org/web/explore/country/TH to see a list of websites growing. Click on Participate at upper right corner http://www.herdict.org/web/participate. In the column “Recently Reported in Thailand”, click on the box “Test These Sites” http://www.herdict.org/web/participate?report=&index=0&testCountry=TH. Spend your hours here rather than MySpace and Twitter. FACT thinks it important to write your conclusions in the “Comments” box in left-hand column to fine-tune results, e.g., “404 Not Found”. Have fun! Our only complaint might be that Herdict should make the URL box capable of copying so that we can see what we’re missing using proxies or VPN.
For more about Herdict Web:
* Visit http://www.herdict.org/web/about
* Download Herdict Firefox add-on (http://www.herdict.org/web/participate/download;jsessionid=D205125DA89BC37A413A52ED5257AC6C); Internet Explorer toolbar coming soon
* Sign up for email updates and announcements, including translations of Herdict Web into other languages
* Check out the Herdict blog at http://www.herdict.org/blog/
* Watch and listen to Jonathan Zittrain discussing Herdict Web at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/events/luncheon/2009/02/herdict and http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/mediaberkman/2009/02/17/radio-berkman-restrictions-connections-visualizations/
What Is Herdict Web? (Tim Hwang)
As governments and institutions throughout the globe increasingly work to control the flow of information on the Internet, online filtration and censorship have become significant threats to speech on the web. Even worse, these efforts often go undetected.
The groups responsible rarely (if ever) announce their intentions, and the precise details of online censorship regimes are equally difficult to track. Obviously, this complicates attempts by activists and researchers to respond to Internet filtration or blocking.
Herdict Web attempts to shed light on this previously opaque activity on the web by generating a dynamic map of information accessibility around the world. Developed by Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Herdict Web provides up-to-date reports on where and when sites are inaccessible, and what kinds of users are facing difficulty. In turn, it transparently makes this information openly available online for discussion and further exploration by the public at large.
But it requires one important ingredient: you.
How does it work?
Traditionally, research on internet filtration is a difficult, expensive, and time-consuming process. Researchers are deployed directly or make contact with a few local affiliates within a target country who run cross-checks on a set list of websites agreed on in advance. This approach has obvious limitations, not least of which is that the small number of individuals involved places practical limits on how comprehensive and how often tests can be made. Taking the insights of projects like SETI@Home, Herdict provides an open platform for all interested users to contribute in building a picture of information accessibility on the web. Anyone online can submit a report of inaccessibility independently, or use our webapp Herdict Reporter to check out sites of particular interest that we’ve been tracking. Collecting these individual experiences, Herdict then anonymizes this information and automatically aggregates the data to generate our map of the online landscape.
So What’s So Great About Herdict?
Make a Difference: Knowing is half the battle. Your efforts will help activists, researchers, and the press understand the evolving face of web filtration and online freedom.
Options A-Go-Go: No need to be limited, Herdict provides tons of ways to participate. For Firefox users, Herdict also provides a lightweight browser add-on that provides the latest data about the website you’re loading and lets you submit inaccessibility reports on the fly.
Constantly Updated Tracking: Interested in keeping an eye out for a particular part of the web? Herdict provides embeddable widgets and a treasure trove of perpetually updated RSS feeds so you can keep up-to-date about the latest reports of inaccessibility by website, country, and even ISP as they happen.
Stay Safe: Herdict respects the privacy of its users and recognizes the risks of participating in environments where online privacy might be in question. All data is rigorously anonymized before being made public.
Data, Data, Data: Like data? Be still your statistical heart. All the information collected by Herdict is available in easily parsable, regularly released data dumps to play with at your leisure.
The Herdict Reporter (Jillian C. York)
Herdict Web offers two ways to report inaccessible web sites. The first is, of course, the Firefox/IE add-on. Of course, you may not want to download an add-on…maybe you’re using a public computer, or maybe you’re just concerned about the software. Whatever the reason, we have a solution: The Herdict Reporter!
The Herdict Reporter is a web-based way of reporting site accessibility to us. When you access the Reporter, you are automatically provided with a site in a frame – if you can see the site, you should report it accessible using the green button to the left. If you can’t, report it inaccessible.
What information does the Herdict Reporter collect?
The Herdict Reporter uses your IP address to automatically populate the country where you are located and the ISP which you are using. Of course, this information could potentially be incorrect, in which case, you can manually type the correct information.
The other information the Reporter hopes to collect is from you. There’s a field to enter your location (e.g. home, work, cyber cafe), tags as they pertain to the site shown (e.g. political, social, news), and any comments you have about the site’s accessibility. You can also view other people’s comments from within the Reporter.
After you have deemed a site inaccessible or accessible, the Reporter will automatically populate with another site from our premade list. You can skip a site at any time if, for whatever reason, you’d prefer not to report it.
Congratulations to the Herdict project team for their terrific work in making Herdict Web a reality!