Kenya: Censorship-free Internet?
Over the last five months we ran OONI tests in Kenya almost every day to examine whether internet censorship events were occurring in the country. Hundreds of thousands of network measurements were collected and analyzed. 1,357 URLs were tested for censorship, including both international websites and sites that are more relevant to Kenya (e.g. local news outlets). Yet, after five months of intensive testing from four local vantage points in Kenya, we found almost no signs of internet censorship in the country.
As part of our study, we started off by updating the Citizen Lab’s Kenyan test list with our local partner, Strathmore University’s Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT). The aim of this was to ensure that we would be testing as many URLs that are relevant to Kenya as possible and which the government could potentially have an incentive to block. The types of URLs that were added to the Kenyan list fall under 30 categories, ranging from news media, file-sharing and culture, to provocative or objectionable categories, like pornography, political criticism, and hate speech.
All of the URLs in both the Kenyan list and the “global list” (containing internationally relevant websites) were tested for censorship through OONI’s Web Connectivity test. This test is designed to examine whether access to websites is blocked through DNS tampering, TCP connection RST/IP blocking, or by a transparent HTTP proxy.
But our testing wasn’t limited to the blocking of websites. We also tested the reachability of the Tor anonymity network through OONI’s relevant software test, and we ran other OONI tests (HTTP invalid request line and HTTP header field manipulation) in an attempt to examine whether systems (“middle boxes”) that could be responsible for censorship and/or surveillance were present in the tested network.
OONI software tests were run from four local vantage points (AS36866, AS15399, AS33771, AS36914) in Kenya. The testing period started on 26th July 2016 and concluded on 14th December 2016. Once the testing period ended, we analyzed the collected data with the aim of examining whether access to sites and services was blocked, and whether proxy technologies were present in the tested network.
Upon analysis of the network measurements collected from Kenya, we found almost no signs of internet censorship.
Out of all the URLs that we tested, the only site that was likely blocked in Kenya according to our testing is http://www.sportingbet.com. The table below illustrates that most of our attempts to establish a TCP connection to this site failed, indicating the possibility of TCP/IP blocking.
The inaccessibility of http://www.sportingbet.com was also confirmed by our local partner in Kenya. Given though that this site was only one of hundreds of gambling sites that we tested, it remains unclear why there would be motivation to block access to this particular site, and not others. It’s interesting to see though that access to the same site appears to be interfered with in other, neighbouring African countries as well.
While other measurements presented similar anomalies, we excluded them from our findings as false positives because (a) the sites in question presented high failure rates from control vantage points, and (b) our local partner was able to confirm the accessibility of the sites in question through a normal browser in Kenya.
The Tor network appeared to be accessible throughout the duration of our testing, and we did not detect any systems (“middle boxes”) that could be responsible for censorship and/or surveillance. However, this does not necessarily mean that Kenyan ISPs are not using such systems, but rather that we were not able to highlight their presence through the tests run in the specific local networks (AS36866, AS15399, AS33771, AS36914) in Kenya.
The findings of this study are corroborated by our Kenyan partners who argue that they never came across a block page or similar forms of censorship in the country over the last five months. Last year however, a site mocking the President’s frequent trips abroad was taken down due to pressure from the government, according to critics.
Acknowledgement of Limitations
While it’s positive that almost no signs of internet censorship were detected as part of this study, it’s important to highlight that these findings present various limitations.
First, this study was limited to four local vantage points in Kenya (AS36866, AS15399, AS33771, AS36914) and therefore does not include measurements from other networks, where censorship events (including power cuts as indirect forms of censorship) might have occurred. As such, the findings of this study are not necessarily representative for Kenya on a countrywide level.
Second, the testing conducted under this study was limited to a set of URLs and services. While a total of 1,357 different URLs were tested for censorship as part of this study, not all the URLs on the internet were tested, indicating the possibility that other sites and services not included in test lists might have been blocked.
Third, the testing period was limited to nearly five months, starting on 26th July 2016 and concluding on 14th December 2016. Therefore, censorship events that may have occurred in the same network before and/or after the testing period are not taken into account as part of this study.
Finally, the testing was limited to software tests that are designed to examine very specific types of censorship (as explained in the methodology section above). Other types of censorship that are not examined as part of OONI’s software tests are not analyzed as part of this study.
Contribute to this study
Even when a country appears to have no censorship, it’s important to monitor internet censorship nonetheless across time. Laws and policies change, and decisions around internet censorship can change along with them.
OONI’s software (called ooniprobe) allows users around the world to automatically test their networks every day for signs of internet censorship. When and if internet censorship occurs, network data demonstrating how it’s implemented will be collected, analyzed and published. This can help increase transparency around internet censorship.
In light of the limitations outlined above, we encourage individuals in Kenya to contribute to this study through the following ways:
- If you’re a Linux or macOS user, consider running ooniprobe (especially if you can cover different vantage points!). Learn how to do so here.
- If you’re a Windows user or are interested in running ooniprobe from a separate device, consider running ooniprobe’s distribution for Raspberry Pis. Learn how to do so here.
- If you have insights on which URLs to test for censorship, consider contributing to the Kenyan test list. Find information on how to do so here.
Questions? Contact us at cipit @ strathmore . edu
Ethiopian State of Emergency Details Released [English translation]
Addis Ababa, October 5, 2009 (Ethiopian Calendar) / 15 October, 2016 (Gregorian Calendar)
State of Emergency Command Post
The Ethiopian Cabinet of Ministers, guided by the country’s Constitution, and seeking to maintain peace and order, especially in violence prone areas, has set the following directives during the State of Emergency. In doing so, we are guided by Article 13 (2) of the Ethiopian Constitution.
Section 1: Prohibited Activities Across the Country
Article 1: Communication instigating Protest and Unrest
Any communication that will create misunderstanding between people or unrest is prohibited and includes:
- Any writing and its distribution, any writing done in secrecy or not and printed, distributed, videos, signs or using any other way to distribute these writings to people. Importing or exporting any publication without license is prohibited.
- Sharing this information on the Internet, radio, TV and social media is prohibited.
Article 2: Communication with Terrorist Groups
- Any communication that are said to be terrorists and anti peace groups is prohibited.
- Sharing or distributing writings from terrorist groups, holding their logos or advertisements is prohibited.
- Watching or sharing television or radio programs such as ESAT, OMN or other similar terrorist linked media is prohibited.
Article 3: Assemblies and Protests
In order to maintain the peace of the citizens, any assembly or protest without authorization from command post is prohibited.
Article 4: Refusing Service to People
- Closing any licensed businesses or shops or government bodies that give service to the public, disappearing from business premises for no particular reason, abusing the job is prohibited.
- Threatening civil servants and private sector workers against reporting to work is prohibited.
Article 5: Protesting in Educational Facilities
Any protest or activity that prevents education institutions from carrying out their mandate, closing these institutions or causing any damage to their infrastructure is prohibited.
Article 6: Protesting around Sporting Institutions
Creating or instigating protests or chaos that is against the sport ethics is prohibited.
Article 7: Traffic Disruptions
Closing or blocking any roads, disrupting transport service, altering tariffs, routes is prohibited.
Article 8: Causing damage to public and religious infrastructure
Causing any damage to public, private, government owned, foreign owned or religious infrastructure in prohibited.
Article 9: Public Holidays
Disturbing any public or national holiday and showing any slogan or agenda unrelated to the holiday is prohibited.
Article 10: Protesting on Religious, Traditional or Public Holiday
Any teachings and preachings at religious institutions that are outside the prescribed religious teachings that will create hatred and instigate protests amongst people is prohibited.
Article 11: Disrupting the work of the Executive Arm of Government
- Defying any instruction given by representatives of the executive arm of government is prohibited, disrupting their work, refusing to cooperate with search requests or evading checkpoints is prohibited.
- Attempting or causing harm to these bodies is prohibited.
Article 12: Wearing Unapproved Outfit
Wearing, storing or selling any uniform assigned to the executive arm of government is prohibited.
Article 13: Entering Places with Fire Arms
Entering market places, religious institutions or places where people gather with fire arms, sharp objects or anything that will cause fire is prohibited.
Article 14: Transfer of a Fire Arm to a Third Party
Any licensed fire arm holder is prohibited from transferring a fire arm to a third party.
Article 15: Committing any Action that Disrupts Tolerance and Unity
Any attack based on tribal identity or speech that may instigate attack on tribal lines is prohibited.
Article 16: Committing any Act that Disrupts the Country’s Sovereignty and Constitutional Order
- Any communication and information sharing with government or non-governmental organizations that affects security, sovereignty and the constitution is prohibited.
- Any political party is prohibited from giving press releases either to local or foreign media that disrupts security, sovereignty and the constitutional order.
Article 17: Being in a Prohibited Place
Leaving a refugee camp without the necessary authorization or entering the country without a valid visa.
Article 18: Restricted Diplomat’s Movement
Diplomats are prohibited from moving past 40KM radius from Addis Ababa without the necessary authorization from the Command Post, for their own safety.
Article 19: Reporting to Duty for the Members of the Security Arm of Government
Any member of the security arm of government is prohibited from resigning or taking leave during the State of Emergency unless there is an unavoidable reason to take leave.
Article 20: Supporting any Act that Disrupts Peace and Security
Supporting, directly or indirectly, entities engaging in illegal activities stated in this decree either through money or in kind is prohibited.
Section 2: Prohibited Activities in Specific Parts in the Country
Section 1 of this decree holds and in addition, articles 21-24 will apply for specific parts of the country at the Command Post’s discretion.
Article 21: Movement with Fire Arms
Possession of fire arm, sharp objects or objects that can start a fire in public spaces is prohibited.
Article 22: Attacks on Public Infrastructure and Business Entities
- Only authorized employees of factories and business entities are allowed near these places between 6PM and 6AM.
- Security officials have been mandated to take action on anyone violating the curfew stated above – 22 (1)
Article 23: Curfew
When the Command Post orders a curfew, movement of persons is prohibited.
Article 24: Disrupting Security Forces from Executing a Security Directive
- It is prohibited to block security forces securing at-risk individuals or individuals suspected of instigating violence.
- Trespassing roads blocked by the Command Post for security purposes is prohibited.
Section 3: Obligation to Notify and Give Information
Article 25: Obligation to maintain and Give Information on Tenants
Anyone renting out a house or vehicle or similar facilities is obliged to get detailed information about the service recipient and notify the nearest police station within 24 hours. In addition, if the service recipient is a foreigner, a copy of the passport and service agreement should be submitted to the police station within 24 hours.
Article 26: Obligation to Give Information
In order to maintain peace and security, anyone who is requested to offer information to the security agencies should cooperate.
Article 27 – Authorized person to take measures
Members of the Executive arm of the government and their colleagues can take measures stated in this decree below against persons found carrying out the prohibited activities.
Article 28 – Measures to be taken when prohibited activities are carried out
On any person not complying with the decree in section 1, Article 1-24, members of the Executive arm of the government can:
- Arrest without court order
- Detain in a place assigned by the command post until the end of the state of emergency
- Decide to whether teach the necessary reformation teaching and release or present them before the court when necessary
- Secure any property that was either used or is to be used for crime to conduct an unwarranted search at any time using people in the neighborhood and the police
- Censor and block any information, publication, picture, video or movie transmitted using Television and radio
- Search stolen properties without warrant and return to the owners
- Taking legal measures and ordering the institutions to take administrative measures on students and staffs protesting and instigating violence in education institutions
- Detain and block people suspected of disrupting peace and security and at risk groups from specific places and
- Take other necessary measures.
Article 29: Self Defense Measures Taken by Security Forces
In the execution of the State of Emergency decree, a security officer or agent faced with a life threatening situation is authorized to use any means necessary to protect his or her life.
Article 30: Authority to Enter an Education Facility
During protests in schools, universities and other higher education institutions, security forces are authorized to enter the protesting institutions to maintain peace and security.
They are also authorized to access and if necessary occupy private and government institutions to arrest protestors and maintain peace and security.
Section 4: Reformation and Judicial Procedure
Article 31: Measures Taken by the Command post According to the Law
- Whoever is scheduled to be arraigned in a court of law will be duly presented.
- Anyone who has participated in protests or demonstrations within the last one year and
- stolen a firearm or any other property from private or government institution and returns and surrenders it within 10 days of declaration of this decree
- supported an illegal activity either in kind or in monetary form and has surrendered to a police station within 10 days of declaration of this decree
- participated in distributing pamphlets or organizing protests but surrendered within 10 days of declaration of this decree
- Anyone who has committed murder, burned property or committed any other crime but surrendered within 10 days of declaration of this decree
the Command Post will have the discretion to decide on reformation training based on the assessment by the court on the depending on the level of participation of said individual.
Addis Ababa, October 5, 2009 (Ethiopian Calendar)
State of Emergency Command Post
The Amharic version of the directive was shared online as images. Some of source images for this translation include:
State of Emergency Directive #Ethiopia pic.twitter.com/ie20lo9eoM
— Addisgazetta (@addisgazetta) October 15, 2016
This document was translated from Amharic to English by an anonymous Amharic speaker. In case of corrections, kindly email ictpolicy directly on (cipit @ strathmore . edu). In case of inconsistencies, the Amharic version is the official document.
Kenya’s ICT policy under review
Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology is in the process of reviewing the country’s 2006 ICT Policy and has shared a draft for public comments. The policy review seeks to align the ICT sector with Kenya’s 2010 constitution and Vision 2030 development plan.
How you can participate
The draft policy is available here as a PDF, and participants can send their comments via email email@example.com or via post office before closure of participation window on Wednesday July 6.
You can also use Jadili, a public participation tool by the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) based at Strathmore Law School, Nairobi.
It is a supplement to the existing options and offers specificity in commentary through annotation of specific clauses or words which other participants can respond to in an open format.
The draft has been posted on Jadili and interested members of the public can register, annotate specific parts of the draft, propose alternative wording or offer general comments on the proposed policy.
All the comments will be shared with the Ministry immediately the public participation window closes on Wednesday 6 July 2016. The drafters of the policy draft can actively respond and engage participants on the platform. We hope you will find Jadili a valuable addition in participatory governance and should you have feedback or questions about the platform, you can reach us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a direct link to the proposed ICT policy on Jadili.
We are live!
Welcome to Africa ICT Policies database, an open and free and interactive repository for information technology policies across Africa. It is a project of The Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) based at the Strathmore Law School in Nairobi, Kenya.
What is the database all about?
ICT policy making processes in Africa – and by extension general policy making processes – are characterized by two main features; scare information on existing legal documents and limited opportunities to participate in making new ones.
As a research institute focusing on ICT policy in Africa, we thought of how we can improve this situation, at least for the African region.
“As information technologies penetrate more and more into our lives, it is necessary that we participate in shaping the policies and laws governing them. To participate effectively, you have to start at a point of ‘what is currently there?’ before you move to ‘how do I want it to look like?’ It is this need that led to this database that we are launching today.”
We have sourced the latest constitutions, conventions, Acts, regulations and other legal documents that have a direct bearing on the expansive Information technology ecosystem in Africa’s 54 countries. This in itself is a very ambitious undertaking and will involve extensive partnerships with governments, civil society and libraries to ensure the database is up to date.
Public (s) Participation
Connected to this, and responding to the second challenge of limited opportunities for public participation in policy making, we have designed an open tool for aggregating public comments on bills or proposed regulations. We are calling this platform Jadili – a Swahili word for discussion, debate or conversation. The platform uploads a bill as received from the sponsor, sets a time-frame for public comments as stipulated by drafting authorities and once complete, a report is sent to the bill sponsor and all those who participated in the commenting. This supplements existing public participation avenues like physical meetings (barazas).
We look forward to interesting times ahead as we help craft and avail better laws and policies for the African ICT ecosystem. Subscribe to our newsletter here to follow through with new developments or contact us here for more information or inquiries.