Localization Lab

Internet Freedom Fund

This fund supports innovative internet freedom projects, including technology development, research, digital security projects, and convenings.

About the Internet Freedom Fund

The Internet Freedom Fund is the primary opportunity through which Open Technology Fund supports innovative global internet freedom projects. These projects are focused on technology development and implementation, but can also include applied research, convenings, and digital security projects. See below for more details about each category.

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.

Application Process and Award Information

Applications to the Fund go through a two-stage application process and are accepted on a rolling basis

Awards are between $10,000 and $900,000 for up to 24 months. Ideal applicants seek funding between $50,000 and $200,000 for efforts between 6 and 12 months.

Funding awards are performance-based contracts signed directly with the applicant or applicants. Funding is dispersed upon completion of stated objectives, activities, and deliverables per a schedule outlined in the contract. All payments are made in U.S. dollars and will comply with local laws, regulations, and ethics rules.

Successful applicants are paired with an OTF program manager who will oversee all project monitoring and evaluation for the duration of the contract. Monitoring and evaluation assessments are based on predetermined and agreed-upon metrics, deliverables, and goals as laid out by the applicant in the project proposal.

Funding Categories

Technology Development

OTF supports the development of innovative internet freedom technologies from the prototype phase to deployment phase, in addition to supporting core infrastructure projects that serve the internet freedom and human rights communities. 

Applications for this category can include, but are not limited to:

  • Creating new, open-source circumvention technologies
  • Taking an existing open-source internet freedom technology and improving upon its security, usability, and adaptability
  • Developing content redistribution methods to aid in content access behind government firewalls
  • Next-generation tools
  • Improving security standards, quality assurance, and best practices within core infrastructure projects
  • Improving accessibility and usability of existing projects
Applied Research

OTF supports the applied research efforts of the internet freedom community through the Internet Freedom Fund. This includes research that identifies where and how censorship is occurring, studying the methods to counteract censorship, and advancing knowledge around what types of content is targeted to help assess threats to internet freedom. 

Applications for this category can include, but are not limited to:

  • Research that focuses on real-time monitoring and analysis of threats to internet freedom
  • Research exploring new methods or improvements of censorship circumvention tools
  • Efforts that increase the understanding and awareness of the Internet freedom community, their roles, and how they contribute to maintaining a free and open internet
  • User research identifying the needs of people living under repressive surveillance and censorship, how technologies and tools can address those needs, and how these tools can introduce usability and localization improvements
Digital Security

OTF works to fill the missing digital security capacity needs for individuals fighting for internet freedom by supporting efforts that increase understanding of the challenges faced while building digital security strategies. Applications in this category should have the development of a stated technology as one of the primary outcomes of the project, achieved by providing user feedback to technology developer communities, deepening the field’s understanding of front-line challenges and existing technology limitations, and strengthening the relationships between technology developers and communities in need.

Applications for this category can include, but are not limited to:

  • Programs focused on technical upskilling new and existing practitioners, preferably guided by a community-driven set of technical priorities
  • Research efforts to map digital threats that affect internet users and high-risk users living in countries with restrictive information controls
  • Setting up or growing regional or local digital security help-desks
  • Threat intelligence sharing initiatives

OTF does not support one-off training, training of trainers, or organizational capacity building as an effort’s primary outcome.

Events and Community Convenings

OTF provides funding that empowers internet freedom communities to collaborate and work cohesively to improve knowledge sharing and collaboration, cultivate deeper trust, and support and diversify the next generation of Internet freedom leaders. Supported efforts include a wide representation of voices to foster greater collaboration and intersectionality. OTF believes that the need to build a collective vision and strategy with a diverse global network of internet freedom collaborators is becoming increasingly important.

Applications for this category can include, but are not limited to:

  • 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

Areas Outside of Our Remit

OTF knows our applicants’ time is valuable so we aim to make our application process as transparent and straightforward as possible. In order to better reflect our respect for an applicant’s time and effort in submitting an application, we have detailed below common types of proposed projects that we are unable or very rarely support. If your project falls within one of these categories, we encourage you to explore our alternative sources of support resources to identify a more suitable funder.

Providing Internet Connectivity

OTF does not provide support for basic connectivity except in limited cases around politically instigated internet shutdowns. Numerous U.S. Government programs outside of OTF provide support for bringing Internet connectivity to areas that have never had it previously. The framework OTF operates within ensures a clear distinction exists to protect against overlapping mandates which is why we do not support projects of this nature.

Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D)

OTF does not provide support for projects focused on harnessing technology for the purpose of societal development. Numerous U.S. Government programs exist to support civic technology projects that use technology to solve societal challenges, such as improving government delivery of services, providing equitable access to technologies and improving digital literacy across society. The OTF program is focused on assisting those exposed to censorship or surveillance in repressive environments.

Legal Analysis and Policy Advocacy

OTF does not provide support for projects to improve the legal and policy landscape, outside of narrowly focused technical research to help inform these efforts. Numerous U.S. Government programs provide support for efforts to conduct legal analysis and improve advocacy for specific policies. The framework OTF operates within ensures a clear distinction exists to protect against overlapping mandates. In addition, these types of activities do not reflect the technology-centric approach underlying the OTF program.

How to Apply:

Applying for the Internet Freedom Fund is a two-stage application process:

Stage 1: Submit a Concept Note through OTF’s online application system in which you tell us about your project idea through a short form.

Stage 2: Applicants whose Concept Notes are deemed to be highly competitive will be invited to submit a Proposal in which they will expand upon their project idea

The Internet Freedom Fund Advisory Council, comprising subject-matter experts who understand various relevant fields and issues related to internet freedom, will conduct a final review of competitive Proposals.

Please review our Applicant Guidebook for additional information about our application process, especially the Concept Note Guide and Review Process sections.

The video below guides you through the Concept Note form step-by-step, explaining what we’re looking for under each question.

Application Review Process

How OTF evaluates applications:

  • Does the proposed effort fit within OTF’s remit?
  • Does it solve an existing problem (or preempt a rising problem)? What is the real-world applicability of the proposed effort?
  • Is it cost effective?
  • Is it sustainable? Will the project survive beyond the life of OTF’s support?
  • Is it complementary to existing efforts?


Applicants can expect to hear back within approximately 6-8 weeks after submitting a Concept Note.


Individuals or organizations (for-profit or nonprofit) of all ages irrespective of nationality, creed, or sex are eligible to apply. 

OTF is not able to support applicants within countries that the United States has trade restrictions or export sanctions as determined by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). 

Questions? Watch the Internet Freedom Fund Walkthrough

Advisory Council:

OTF’s Advisory Council plays a crucial role in reviewing funding proposals. The Advisory Council is an independent voluntary group of subject matter experts who understand various relevant fields and issues as they relate to Internet freedom. In their capacity as Advisory Council members, they provide strategic guidance to OTF.

Alternative Sources of Support

Our Alternative Sources of Support contains funding sources which support efforts relevant to the fields of internet freedom, software development, journalism, and human rights. Sources are organized by general subject matter. We’re always seeking to grow this resource and make it as useful and inclusive as possible, so if you know of a funding source that should be on here, please let us know by contacting us at [email protected].