In March, the Open Technology Fund continued to both receive a large number of support requests and support a diverse portfolio of internet freedom projects and fellows. Of note this month, the annual application window for the fourth Information Controls Fellowship class closed on March 19, with OTF receiving 75 applications for the highly competitive program. The OTF team is currently reviewing those applications which are seeking to work with well over a dozen leading host organizations in the field of internet freedom.
Following his visit to the Internet Freedom Festival, the mayor of Valencia announced his intention to establish the City of Valencia as a safe haven for journalists under threat worldwide.
- Censorship detection research platform OONI released two reports detailing the state of internet censorship in two countries, Thailand and Myanmar. OONI found 13 websites blocked in Thailand during the testing period, including those of international news outlets and circumvention technology tool sites. In Burma, five websites showed showed signs of being blocked, including those of the US Embassy and the Organization of American States (OAS). Read the Thailand report here and the Myanmar report here.
- Since implementing Pakistan’s first-ever cyber harassment hotline four months ago, Digital Integrity fellow Nighat Dad’s hotline service has handled 406 individual cases, assisting individuals experiencing blackmailing, fake profiles, non-consensual use of information, and hacked accounts or devices. 62% of the calls were made by women, with Facebook being the platform where people most commonly faced harassment. More findings from the hotline’s first four months can be found in this Digital Rights Foundation report. Coverage in Dawn and Express Tribune.
- The Guardian Project made substantial progress on the development of its secure app distribution platform, launching the first alpha release featuring a newly redesigned layout designed to improve the user experience of the F-Droid platform, which features built-in circumvention support so users can find and download internet freedom tools with an easy-to-use, secure “app store” experience. Read more about the update on the F-Droid blog here.
- The OONI mobile app, ooniprobe, released a new versions (1.1.3) featuring multilingual support and several new languages, including Spanish, French, Italian, and Hindi. Download ooniprobe for Android devices on Google Play or for iOS from the App Store.
- Former ICFP fellow Yixin Sun’s research on strengthening anonymity systems such as the Tor network against powerful Autonomous System (AS)-level adversaries was published in a co-authored Princeton paper, “Counter-RAPTOR: Safeguarding Tor Against Active Routing Attacks.” Yixin’s work focused on building a live BGP monitoring system that could check for suspicious routing changes or updates in order to mitigate attacks. Read the paper here.
- The Iran Cyber Dialogue was held March 27-29 in Brussels, Belgium, adjacent to RightsCon 2017, bringing together key actors from various Iran-focused civil society, technology, policy, government, and media organizations for invaluable face-to-face discussions to better collaborate and coordinate on key challenges facing the Iran internet freedom community.
- In response to the government of Azerbaijan shutting down the websites of several independent media organizations, OTF provided rapid response support to restore access to the blocked sites. Through Rapid Response support, the websites were restored by running the site’s content inside Amazon web service Storage (the “collateral freedom” method) and as of April 11 the site was still accessible. Read more on the technical details here and background on the escalation of events here.
Select news collected by OTF from the month of March 2017 - Get the full feed live @OpenTechFund
North Korean Regime is finding new ways to stop information flows | Washington Post
China’s Latest Onslaught on the Internet | Human Rights Watch
Russia Is Trying to Copy China’s Approach to Internet Censorship | Slate
Where Speech Goes, Repression Follows: The Global Trend of Criminalizing Online Speech | CFR
How Free and Secure OSs like Qubes & Tails can keep activists safe | Benetech
Beyond the Great Firewall: How China Became a Global Information Power | CIMA
False Friends: How Fake Accounts and Crude Malware Targeted Dissidents in Azerbaijan | Amnesty International
Why are African governments so worried by social media? | Quartz
Internet Blocked in Tibetan Areas of China in Run-up to Sensitive Anniversary | Radio Free Asia
Telegram was the app where Iranians talked politics. Then the government caught on | LA Times