Post Date: April 26, 2004

An international team of academics from Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the University of Cambridge and the University of Toronto has begun monitoring worldwide Internet censorship and surveillance.

“The Open Net Initiative represents a new approach to university-based research,” says Cambridge University’s Rafal Rohozinski. “We fuse cutting-edge intelligence-derived techniques with a networked model of analysis that includes some of the brightest minds in this field – we are striving to become the eyes and ears on digital censorship worldwide.”

Formed in 2004 with support from the Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute, the Open Net Initiative (ONI) represents a partnership aimed at excavating, analyzing, and reporting censorship practices. As the Harvard Law Assitant Professor Jonathan Zittrain explains: “In order to fully understand the Internet’s evolution, we must be able to map it empirically.”

“What we are doing with the ONI is taking these tools and turning them inside-out, so to speak, focusing them back on the ‘watchers’ to measure their practices against general principles of human rights, and open the lid on the World Wide Web,” said the University of Toronto’s Ronald Deibert, explaining that the methodology of the ONI research borrows tools that have traditionally been used by state intelligence agencies.

The ONI employs a unique interdisciplinary methodology that combines intelligence-gathering tools with a global network of researchers to create a detailed picture of what goes on beneath the surface of the Internet. ONI research reports, bulletins, and advisories will be made available on the ONI website.

Additional funding for research and writing work by the Berkman Center comes from a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and other sources, while the work of the Citizen Lab and Advanced Network Research Group is supported by the Ford Foundation.