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Internet Censorship Monitoring 14th Malaysian General Elections

Running Open Observatory for Network Interference (OONI) tests to measure and detect incidences of censorship for Malaysia's 14th General Elections

Details

Khairil Yusof <[email protected]>, Sinar Project, 16 May 2018

Key Findings

  • live.undi.info independent media elections results website run by independent news site MalaysiaKini was blocked for a few hours during key election results announcement period on TMnet and Maxis networks.

Method

In lead up to and on the day of Malaysian elections held on May 9th 2018, Sinar Project identified several selected election related sites (see Appendix)  that would be monitored and tested for possible censorship or interference using Open Observatory for Network Interference (OONI) network tests run through OONI Probe mobile applications.

OONI Probe mobile applications together with OONI Run test urls, provided a way for Malaysian public to help run tests and collect data on specific set of urls through a link published on social media networks. The mobile application can also test and collect data on network interference of instant messaging services such as Whatsapp and Telegram. Special events such elections can be unpredictable, and this method allowed us to quickly publish new urls for public to help run tests to confirm and collect evidence of possible network interference.

Findings

In week leading up to the elections, no incidents of censorship for selected test list was detected through daily tests run by OONI Probe application on TMNet ISP network, as well as test runs of selected websites on mobile app through Run OONI links.

 

Polling Day

Sites such as Bersih.org, political party websites and official elections page were temporarily inaccessible intermittently on different networks early on the day of polling, but many were due to network timeouts. This seems to indicated either heavy traffic to the websites or other network related issues.

Key sites that would have affected voters, such as official service to check location of assigned polling booths (pengundi.spr.gov.my) was accessible throughout polling day.

Blocking through DNS hijacking of independent election results site

Network interference data by Open Observatory showed that for critical period of #GE14 election result updates in late evening, TMNet & Maxis blocked Malaysiakini’s live.undi.info via DNS hijacking. On recorded instances, users on these networks using ISP provided DNS service would be redirected to 175.139.142.25 the ip address used to serve the standard government legal notice that a site has been blocked. While there were reports by the public of screenshots of the notice, for the measurement data collected the tests could only get connection errors from the redirected server.

First measurement detecting censorship event occurred at 9:55pm on TMNet, shortly before official election updates from Elections Commission and other news sources stopped from around 11pm.

This indicated that there was a possible attempt by caretaker government to censor alternative sources of election results such as those reported by independent news media.

Measurements collected for live.undi.info

Network

Start Time (Malaysian Time GMT+8)

Status

TMNet AS4788

2018-05-09 17:20

OK

TMNet AS4788

2018-05-09 17:22

OK

DiGi AS4818

2018-05-09 17:30

OK

DiGi AS4818

2018-05-09 17:45

OK

TMNet AS4788

2018-05-09 20:31

OK

TMNet AS4788

2018-05-09 20:34

OK

DiGi AS4818

2018-05-09 21:45

OK

Unknown (AS0)

2018-05-09 21:51

OK

DiGi AS4818

2018-05-09 21:51

OK

DiGi AS4818

2018-05-09 21:52

OK

TMNet AS4788

2018-05-09 21:55

DNS Hijacking

Maxis AS9534

2018-05-09 21:55

DNS Hijacking

Time AS9534

2018-05-09 21:56

OK

DiGi AS4818

2018-05-09 22:13

OK

DiGi AS4818

2018-05-09 22:44

OK

TMNet AS4788

2018-05-09 22:52

DNS Hijacking

YTL AS45960

2018-05-09 22:55

OK

DiGi AS4818

2018-05-09 23:59

OK

Time AS9930

2018-05-10 00:50

OK

 

Conclusion and Recommendations

Collection of test data proving DNS hijacking provided clear evidence of censorship of independent source of election results on two different networks (TMNet and Maxis) during critical period of election results announcements for Malaysian elections. Although this did not affect the eventual delayed official election results which matched the faster updates on the blocked independent results website.

OONI Probe Mobile app and OON Run links is a viable method to collect measurements for a list of specific urls with the assistance of the public on a variety of networks for specific events during a fluid and changing situation such as elections. 

It is recommended that better advocacy and preparation of users for installing and running OONI Probe apps should be done. Ideally workshops could be held with other civil society partners such as independent election monitors and online media companies, to provide a more reliable group of users and wider reach of users ready to run tests from announced tests links. 

Collected OONI data is only publicly available 24-48 hours after tests are run. A method for users to immediately share their measurement results using OONI Probe apps via email or social media would be helpful for coordinating organisations to be able to confirm censorship events immediately. During the period of reported blocking, Malaysian users resorted to sending screen captures of OONI Probe app results to help confirm.

We would like to thank the team from Open Observatory for Network Interference for their support and Malaysians who help install OONI Probe app and help run tests.

Appendix A

Websites selected for testing

Official Election Commission Websites

 

Election Results

http://pru14.spr.gov.my/

Election Commissions Website

http://www.spr.gov.my/

Information for Voters

https://pengundi.spr.gov.my/

 

News and Media

 

Google News

http://news.google.com

Malaysiakini

https://www.malaysiakini.com

Independent Local

The Star Online

http://www.thestar.com.my

Local Mainstream English Language

Sin Chew

http://www.sinchew.com.my

Local Mainstream Chinese Language

Oriental Daily

http://www.orientaldaily.com.my

Local Mainstream Chinese Language

Utusan

http://www.utusan.com.my

Local Mainstream Bahasa Language

Berita Harian

Malay Mail

https://www.malaymail.com/

Independent Local English Language

Tempo

https://dunia.tempo.co/

Foreign Indonesian Language

The Jakarta Post

http://www.thejakartapost.com/

Foreign Regional English Language

BBC Asia

http://www.bbc.com/news/world/asia

Foreign English Language

Reuters

https://www.reuters.com/

Foreign English Language

live.undi.info

http://live.undi.info

Election Results website by Independent Media Malaysiakini

live.malaysiakini.om

http://live.malaysiakini.com

Election News highlights by Independent Media Malaysiakini

Social Media

 

Election Monitors

Bersih Electoral Monitoring NGO

https://www.bersih.org/

Pemantau Election Offenses Monitoring Site

https://www.pemantau.org

 

Political Parties and Politicians

Mahathir Mohamad Blog

http://chedet.cc

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (Opposition)

http://www.keadilanrakyat.org

Pakatan Harapan (Opposition Coalition)

http://pakatanharapan.com.my

Barisan Nasional (Incumbent Coalition)

https://www.barisannasional.org.my

Democratic Action Party (Opposition Party)

http://www.dapmalaysia.org

Amanah (Opposition Party)

https://amanah.org.my

Warisan (Opposition Party)

http://www.warisansabah.org/

UMNO (Incumbent Party)

http://www.umno-online.my/

RocketKini (Opposition Party News)

https://www.roketkini.com

https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vRLMk3LaWgZw4vziycVAtPbTVuAMzub3PDYOUSGfcgGYBGrvlYObZf-CFHVsMI8IvQMW9X1HccTwZCR/pub

Source: Google Docs

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