IETF99: Towards a new understanding of withheld content

PRAGUE, 16 JULY 2017 РTechnologists from Turkey Blocks, Article 19, the Center for Democracy & Technology, ACLU, Internet Society, Derechos Digitales and a coalition of developers and policy experts from civil society today presented at IETF a series of new Open Source technology concept implementations. The engineering initiative, recognised as Best New Work by a panel of expert judges at the conference, sheds light on the extent of industry compliance with censorship and content takedown requests.

The tools, presented at the IETF99 hackathon, comprise two HTTP probe engines, a Chrome browser extension, and a WordPress extension interconnected with a realtime brokering server to collect and classify Internet-scale observation reports. The system has been designed to expose and better understand use of HTTP status code 451, indicating legally withheld content using modern network analysis techniques.

The work is part of an initiative to integrate human rights considerations into the work of international standards bodies such as IETF and ICANN.

Presenting the technology modules at the IETF99 hackathon

A prototype transparency portal with realtime observations has been launched at aggregating the raw data and offering a basis to prototype ideas around multi-source censorship measurement. The source code is provided free of charge to encourage collaboration on work that can enhance freedom of expression and transparent internet governance worldwide, is available at the 451 hackathon module and has been added to the NetBlocks Framework Open Source incubator for new projects.

The effort is expected to inform IETF specification RFC7725 and support ongoing policy work on corporate compliance with government takedown requests, such as DMCA takedowns, and blocking requests issued on grounds of national security or privacy.

IETF99 RFC7725 tooling to shed light on HTTP 451 controls

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) develops and promotes voluntary Internet standards, in particular the standards that comprise the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP).

NetBlocks is a London-based organization working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance, developing technology to track internet shutdowns, service throttling and network disruptions alongside policy, economic and legal tooling to better understand and facilitate the flow of information online.