The Internet Freedom Fund is Open Technology Fund’s (OTF) primary way to support projects and people working on open and accessible technology-focused projects that promote human rights, Internet freedom, open societies.
OTF aims to support technologists and activists bring to life ideas that advance inclusive and safe access to global communications networks, counteract censorship and surveillance, and mitigate digital security threats to Internet freedom specifically for at-risk-users, journalists, human rights defenders, civil society activists and others living in repressive environments. OTF prioritizes projects coming from individuals or organizations who are applying for the first time, identify as under-represented within the field, and address areas that are underfunded.
The projects and people they support all fall into one or more of the following areas:
- Technology Development: In this category they support the development of innovative Internet freedom technology, prototypes, and projects as well as core infrastructure projects that serve the Internet freedom and human rights communities. OTF seeks to support technology-focused interventions with clear human-centred benefits for Internet freedom. Applications for this fund could include:
- Creating new open source circumvention technologies
- Improving the security, usability, and adaptability of existing open source Internet freedom technologies, as well as maintenance and upgrades
- New content redistribution methods able to reintroduce content behind firewalls, or similar services;
- Next-generation tools that move beyond traditional “cat-and-mouse” circumvention techniques;
- Improving security standards, quality assurance, and best practices within core infrastructure projects;
- Efforts that make existing projects more accessible and easier to contribute to (ex. documentation, tool migration, refactoring code, testing)
- Applied Research: Applied research efforts supported through the Internet Freedom Fund should be applied – that is, with direct feedback, insight, or applicability to the technology development process. This research may include identifying how, why, or where censorship is happening, studying specific Internet freedom tools and ways to improve them, advancing knowledge around what types of content censors target, or assessing threats to Internet freedom in a specific geographic context. Applications for this fund could include:
- Research that focuses on real-time monitoring and analysis of both technical and political threats to Internet freedom, including network interference and shutdowns;
- Research exploring new methods of circumvention that would improve the resiliency of widely utilized tools;
- Efforts that increase the understanding and awareness of relevant actors in this space, their roles, and how they contribute to maintaining the Internet’s core ecosystem
- User research that identifies Internet Freedom needs for people living under repressive surveillance and censorship, how current and future technologies and tools can help address those needs better, and research into how these tools can introduce usability and localization improvements within the context of the afore-mentioned people.
- Digital Security Support: OTF aims to fill missing digital security capacity needs for on-the-ground organizations promoting human rights, focusing on those fighting to increase free expression and Internet freedom. Further, OTF seeks to support efforts that increase the developer communities’ understanding of the challenges that organizations and users are facing on the ground, when maintaining digital security strategies or using their tools. Applications for this fund could include:
- Projects that provide new or deeper insights into the circumstances of front-line communities that ultimately contribute to challenges for their digital security training and capacity building initiatives,
- Projects that foster long-term improvements to a community’s digital security practices, demonstrate a clear path of continued engagement (rather than one-off assistance) and are clearly derived from the needs of the intended communities being assisted.
- Projects with clear documentation or feedback for the Internet Freedom technologist/ technology development community’s benefit (such as: public report detailing digital security assistance efforts, bug reporting following assistance, co-designed digital security assistance with key internet freedom technology projects, etc.)
- OTF does not directly support one-off training, training of trainers, or organizational capacity building as an effort’s primary outcome.
- Community Convenings: OTF provides funding that empowers Internet freedom communities to become stronger and vibrant by focusing on cultivating deeper trust relationships, improving knowledge share and collaboration, and supporting and diversifying the next generation of leaders. The efforts they support bring in new voices not well represented in current conversations and help create collaboration and intersectionality. Applications for this fund could include:
- Targeted research and development gatherings designed to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing between projects in the areas of privacy, circumvention technology, and digital security;
- Community organized events to identify needs, share resources, and gain new insights about censorship, surveillance and digital security issues.
Minimum of $10,000 and maximum of $900,000 for a year-long contract. Note, however, that OTF’s target support ceiling is $300,000; most supported efforts receive between $50,000 and $200,000.
Their goal is to support efforts that aim to advance Internet freedom in the world’s most repressive environments. Ideally, this means they support organizations and individuals that are:
- Working on projects that will directly benefit those living in the world’s most oppressive censorship and surveillance environments;
- Located in or have direct experience with communities in the Global South;
- Come from or have direct experience with repressive censorship and surveillance environments;
- Come from or have direct experience with underrepresented and/or targeted minority groups, including those with a focus on human rights, LGBT, journalism, media, or activism.
For more information, visit OTF.
For more information, visit https://www.opentech.fund/funds/internet-freedom-fund/