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FAQs

What is Herdict?

How did Herdict come about?

Why should I use Herdict?

How can I submit reports using Herdict?

On the Reporter, why can I see a small thumbnail of the site, but not the large image?

What is Herdict’s affiliation with organizations featured on the site, such as EFF and Reporters Without Borders?

I just reported a site. What happens next?

How reliable is your data?

What does an inaccessible report mean?

What does an accessible report mean?

I can access a site, but certain content is not available. Should I report that site as inaccessible or accessible?

When should I submit a report?

Why don’t you have any data on X site or Y country?

What information does Herdict collect?

Can I download your data?

Will Herdict protect my private information?

Is it legal for me to use Herdict?

Who runs Herdict?

What's with the sheep?

What is Herdict?

Herdict collects and disseminates real-­time, crowdsourced information about Internet filtering, denial of service attacks, and other blockages. Based at the Berkman Center at Harvard University, it is the first and only large-­scale project of its kind. When individuals can’t access a site, they can report that experience to Herdict through browser toolbars, e-­mail, Twitter or Herdict.org. Herdict aggregates this data to create a real-­time map of global Internet health. This data can be sorted and visualized by country, URL, and date, creating a picture of changes as they are happening. As more of peoples’ lives move online, tools like Herdict will become increasingly important.

How did Herdict come about?

Herdict - a portmanteau of "herd" and "verdict" -- was created to provide real-time information about the health of the Internet. Some terrific projects, like the OpenNet Initiative (ONI), conduct very thorough research into filtering and censorship, but its data takes longer to analyze, and its methods only provide a small glimpse into inaccessibility around the world. Herdict, on the other hand, uses crowdsourcing, meaning that it can be far more responsive and timely. It also means our data can be a little more unreliable. Despite our different approaches, both Herdict and ONI share a common mission to identify and document Internet filtering and surveillance, and to promote and inform wider public dialogues about such practices.

Why should I use Herdict?

There are many reasons why you might want to use Herdict. You can use Herdict to learn more about the health of the Internet, and you can use the site to report sites and improve the quality of our data. If a site that you try to visit is inaccessible, you can check Herdict's database to determine if other people on your ISP or in your country are experiencing the same issue. You can report the site in order to help other users. You can also report sites in order to help our partners, such as OpenNet Initiative, Reporters Without Borders, and Twitter. They’ve created lists of sites that they care about, and by reporting on those sites, you are helping some of the organizations that you care about. With your help, we are working to build a database of Internet health for users all over the world.

How can I submit reports using Herdict?

The primary way to report is through our Reporter tool. This tool will load sites for you to test; you determine whether the site is accessible or not, and the next site will automatically load. From the tool you can test Herdict’s list of sites, or you can try sites selected by our partners, such as Reporters Without Borders, Twitter, Global Voice, OpenNet Initiative, and Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In addition to the Reporter, you can report sites as you browse by downloading the add-on for Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer. We also accept reports through Twitter and e-mail. You can learn more on the participate section of Herdict.

On the Reporter, why can I see a small thumbnail of the site, but not the large image?

The small thumbnail view of each website in the Herdict Reporter is a screenshot that we at Herdict periodically take and store from our servers in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the United States. There will be a thumbnail whenever we can access the site, but that doesn’t impact whether you can access the site. The larger view uses your connection to load the site in an embedded window. If you are able to access the website, you will see it load in this larger window. If the site is inaccessible, it will not load and you should report it as such.

What is Herdict’s affiliation with organizations featured on the site, such as EFF and Reporters Without Borders?

You can now help many of the organizations that you care about by reporting on sites that are important to them. We have been working with several organizations committed to the free flow of information to create sets of sites that they would like tested. We are starting with OpenNet Initiative, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, Twitter, Global Voices, and Amnesty International. We will be looking to add more partners shortly. Together, we can better visualize web accessibility around the globe.

I just reported a site. What happens next?

Your report should appear immediately in our raw data feed. There’s no middle-man or review process. This enables us to be as current as possible. It also means that we are relying on you to report carefully.

The only time we treat reports differently is when you report a site that is pornography or appears on Google’s SafeSearch list. Because the reporter tool loads previously reported sites, we want to avoid turning Herdict into just a list of porn sites. We want all people to feel comfortable using the site, so we intentionally exclude porn sites from the reporter. You can still report a porn site as inaccessible; it just won't make it to all parts of the site.

How reliable is your data?

Because our project is crowdsourced, it means that we are placing our trust in our users to provide us with accurate reports. Although we do not verify individual reports, that doesn’t mean that things break down if someone submits a few erroneous reports. If you’ve ever looked at an online restaurant, hotel, or product review, you’ve seen that not everyone agrees; but with enough reviews, you still learn about the quality of a hotel. Crowdsourcing is based on the belief that with enough data, the accurate reports will outweigh any inaccuracies. Herdict operates on the same principle. As long as we get enough reports, the good data should outweigh any outliers. Additionally, we keep an eye on the site, and we can remove clearly erroneous reports as necessary.

What does an inaccessible report mean?

It means that for whatever reason - technological failure, intentional censorship, or a denial of service attack, or something else - you were not able to access a desired site or the desired content on that site. If the site you are trying to reach does not appear as you would expect it to, it should be reported as inaccessible. For example, if you are attempting to view a specific YouTube video and instead receive a notice explaining that the video has been removed, that would be inaccessible. Similarly, if the site you are trying to reach tells you that the content or page is unavailable in your country, that would be inaccessible even though you technically reached the site.

What does an accessible report mean?

It means that you successfully reached a site and the content you expected. Accessible reports help us determine whether a given inaccessible report is just a fluke. If only a handful of people report a site as inaccessible, but many more people say it is accessible, then it is probably an isolated problem and not widespread. On the other hand, if only a few people report the site as accessible and many others report it as inaccessible, it may well be a sign of some more systematic problem.

I can access a site, but certain content is not available. Should I report that site as inaccessible or accessible?

If you are able to access a site, but you can’t access particular content on that site (such as a single video on YouTube, while the rest of the site is accessible), you should report that URL as inaccessible. Consider leaving a comment with your report that explains what is inaccessible and why; comments will help us and others understand the issue.

When should I submit a report?

Please report as soon and as frequently as you can. This is the best way to keep our information current.

Why don’t you have any data on X site or Y country?

Herdict data is provided by you and other members of the Herd. Because of that we are entirely dependent upon our users providing us with a current and diverse stream of data. If we don’t have any data on a certain site or country, or if that data is out of date, we simply haven’t received any recent reports for what are trying to find. Sometimes it happens, but we’d like it to happen less. You can help us by encouraging your friends to report and spreading the word about the work we are doing.

What information does Herdict collect?

In order to provide an accurate picture of Internet health, Herdict will collect and store the information you provide when you submit a report (URL, ISP, country, location, category of the site, comments), your IP address, and your browser version. No personally identifiable information will be made publicly available, and we will never sell this information to another organization.

Can I download your data?

Yes - we strongly believe in making our data publicly accessible. In addition to being able to sort and analyze our entire database of records, you can download 500 records at a time through our Explore pages. If you need more data, you can use our Query API, which makes it possible to download our entire database. We only request that you adhere to our site terms and conditions in using the data (they are generous and flexible, we promise!).

Will Herdict protect my private information?

Herdict will never release any information that is personally identifiable, nor will we ever sell the information you report to a company. You can read Herdict’s privacy policy here.

Is it legal for me to use Herdict?

Rules vary by country, but we know of no nation where it is illegal for you to report information about sites you cannot access.

Who runs Herdict?

Herdict is an initiative of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Its principal investigator is Professor Jonathan Zittrain. You can read Professor Zittrain's blog here. The Director of Herdict is Ryan Budish.

What's with the sheep?

Shep is the Herdict mascot. By reporting to Herdict and joining the herd, you are helping Shep stop his nemesis: Censorsheep. By using the power of the herd, we can generate a real time map of web accessibility. Herdict combines your verdict with that of other members of the Herd, allowing you to contribute to building a more open and transparent Internet.