Sponsor 96: Rapid Expansion of Access to the Uncensored Internet through Tor in China, Hong Kong, & Tibet
Milestone ID: 2634
The CCP blocks access to Tor largely by finding and blocking bridge IP addresses, not by blocking the protocol used to disguise or hide traffic. That means that our strategy for reaching users in China and the region should involve rapidly adding a diverse set of new bridge entry points to the Tor network and distributing them in ways that are difficult for the censors to learn these IP addresses and block them, but remain easy for our target users to access.
We also need to respond quickly when bridges are blocked and remove them from distribution so users don’t get bridges that are no longer effective, and we need some of this reachability testing to be automated. We need to increase the number of avenues for users to get connected to Tor by updating censorship circumvention to a wide variety of filesharing, browsing, and messaging apps for mobile (Android, iOS, CalyxOS) and desktop (Windows, OS X, Linux) devices.
Finally, we need this project to be informed by users in the China context who can help us evaluate our tools, use the right distribution methods, and reach the human rights defenders, journalists, and marginalized people we aim to reach.
The goal of this project is to implement new circumvention technologies in Tor-based Android, iOS, and desktop tools to serve a larger and more diverse user base across China, Hong Kong, and Tibet. The result of this project will be a strong suite of long-term, reliable, and blocking-resistant applications, allowing human rights defenders, journalists, whistleblowers, and marginalized groups to access critical resources, share files, browse, & communicate freely.
This project’s impact is directly amplified by another pending DRL project by the Tor Project titled Making the Tor network faster & more reliable for users in Internet-repressive places. The project we are outlining in this proposal makes bridges more accessible and less detectable in China. If we were to open access to the Tor network to many more users without completing the Infrastructure proposal work, the network would have unreliable speeds and sluggish downloads / file transfers / video streaming because of congestion caused by all of the new users connecting in China. We need to make the network better at distributing lots of users across bridges / pluggable transports / vanilla relays in order to handle a surge in users, and the Infrastructure award does that. Put another way, the Infrastructure award prepares the network to handle the surge of users coming from China.
Objective 1: Implement new pluggable transports and more bridges that are harder for censors to block to the Tor network.
- O1.1: Prepare Snowflake to handle a surge of operators and users.
- O1.2: Increase the number of Snowflake bridges.
- O1.2.1: Run a public campaign to encourage Internet users to install the Snowflake extension
- O1.2.2: Scale Tor reachability through mobile Snowflakes.
- O1.3: Implement bridges with pluggable transport HTTPT support.
- O1.4: Increase the number of active obfs4 and HTTPT bridges.
- O1.4.1: Increase the number of dynamic bridges run by nonprofit partners.
- O1.4.2: Run a public campaign to encourage new individual operators to establish bridges.
- O1.4.3: Monitor bridge health
Objective 2: Improve the bridge distribution systems so that it’s harder for censors to learn and block bridges and easier for users to get them.
- O2.1: Make it easier for humans & harder for censors to get bridges from moat distributor.
- O2.2: Deploy improved bridge distribution systems.
- O2.2.1.: Deploy the Salmon bridge distribution system.
- O2.2.2: Deploy next generation bridge distribution system (rdsys)
- O2.3: React and steer our response to censorship.
Objective 3: Update a diverse set of proven open source circumvention applications so they are compatible with new bridges and censorship resistance/detection techniques.
- O3.1: Improve automatic censorship detection during bootstrapping in Tor Browser (desktop and Android).
- O3.1.1: Improve automatic censorship detection during bootstrapping.
- O3.1.2: Improve automatic bridges acquisition under censored networks.
- O3.2: Integrate Snowflake into Tor Browser stable.
- O3.3: Improve automatic censorship detection in OnionShare desktop.
- O3.4: Integrate Tor into CalyxOS.
- O3.5: Integrate Tor+Snowflake/obfs4 capabilities into mobile applications.
- O3.5.1: OnionShare, iOS
- O3.5.2: OnionShare, Android
- O3.5.3: Save (Share-Archive-Verify-Encrypt) by OpenArchive
Objective 4: Surge by deploying region-specific and varied outreach, and distribution localized efforts.
- O4.1: Localize all UI modified in this project.
- O4.2 Create and publish user documentation.
- O4.3: Modify GetTor so that it can distribute Tor Browser via messaging apps.
- O4.4: Build region-specific outreach, distribution, and user support.
- O4.5: Conduct end-user feedback collection and usability research.
Key Indicators we are tracking for this project:
- Number of average unique monthly users of Snowflake bridges.
- Number of Snowflake proxies running.
- Number of average unique monthly users of obfs4 bridges. - Number of tools supported by the project.
- Number of average unique monthly users of tools from this project.
- Number of bridge relays.
- Number of average unique monthly users of bridges.
- Number of OnionShare downloads to all platforms (Desktop, Android and iOS).
- Number of Tor Browser downloads.
- Number of Tor Browser downloads in localized languages.
- Number of organizations reached out through this project.
- Number of unique users engaged in remote moderated usability testing activities.
- Number of average unique monthly users of bridges.