My Apply
My Apply

Internet Freedom Fund


The Internet Freedom Fund is OTF's primary way to support projects and people working on open and accessible technology-centric projects that promote human rights, Internet freedom, open societies, and help advance inclusive and safe access to global communications networks for at-risk users including journalists, human rights defenders, civil society activists, and every-day people living within repressive environments who wish to speak freely online.

Setting the stage

Through the Internet Freedom Fund, OTF strives to uphold and increase capacity for individuals, organizations, and companies who support technology-centered efforts that aim to strengthen Internet freedom and promote human rights by circumventing repressive censorship and surveillance, improving related digital security capabilities, and contributing to the overall health of the Internet.

Ideal Internet Freedom Fund applicants are:

  • Open in nature and collaborative;
  • From within communities affected by censorship or are co-designing and co-developing with them;
  • Promoting a deeper understanding of Internet freedom challenges and limitations;
  • Solving a currently unaddressed challenge or preempting an emerging one; and/or
  • Are actively maintaining technologies demanded and utilized by people on the front lines of the world’s most repressive environments.

Ideal applications for this fund are focused on:

  • Creating new open source circumvention technologies that fill a current need of targeted users;
  • Improving the security, usability, and adaptability of existing open source Internet freedom technologies;
  • Providing new or deeper insights into the challenges of front-line communities that ultimately contribute to the improvement of technological solutions;
  • Projects that emphasize applied research;
  • Research that focuses on real-time monitoring and analysis of both technical and political threats to Internet freedom, including network interference and shutdowns;
  • New content redistribution methods able to reintroduce content behind firewalls, or similar services;
  • Making targeted communities more resilient to digital attacks via customized solutions in-line with OTF criteria;
  • Creating new open source circumvention technologies that fill a current need of targeted users;
  • Next-generation tools that move beyond traditional “cat-and-mouse” circumvention techniques;

Ideal applications adhere to the following:

  • Candidates can apply for up to $900,000 and no less than $10,000 for a year long contract. Note, however, that OTF’s target support ceiling is $300,000, with most supported efforts receiving between $50,000 and $200,000. More information on OTF’s previous levels of support can be found in our Annual Reports.
  • Preference is given to organizations and individuals without a history of prior support, and who have a deep understanding of the surveillance, censorship and security issues affecting communities from the Global South living in repressive environments.
  • Strong priority goes to projects with the potential for immediate impact and long-term sustainability, and that make intellectual property publicly available via open licensing and open source code.
  • OTF highly values projects that incorporate collaborative partnerships with other organizations and/or individuals within the Internet freedom community or their respective area of focus.

Common Ineligible Areas of Focus:

OTF knows our applicants’ time is valuable so we aim to make our application process as transparent and straightforward as possible. Part of this also means being transparent about what we don’t fund so that applicants do not expend unnecessary time and resources submitting applications that fall outside of OTF’s remit. 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.

OONI: Open Observatory of Network Interference

OONI Probe is free and open source software designed to measure internet censorship and other forms of network interference.

Tor Project

For the past ten years, the Tor Project has been providing the world with technology and research essential to protecting privacy and freedom of speech online.

OpenNet Africa

The OpenNet Africa initiative is working to bolster digital rights and security knowledge for at-risk groups in five African countries.


A secure group messaging protocol allowing instantaneous communications between any number (n) of people

Open Integrity Index

Open Integrity is a platform allowing the collaborative fact-checking of software security and privacy claims.

Internet Freedom Festival

The Internet Freedom Festival (IFF) is one of the largest gatherings in the world that brings together activists, journalists, developers, humanitarian workers…

Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa

The Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) is an annual multi-stakeholder event focus on protecting and promoting internet rights throughout Africa, a…

Citizen Lab Summer Institute

The Citizen Lab Summer Institute on Monitoring Internet Openness and Rights is a series of intensive research workshops hosted annually at the Munk School of G…

Pakistan Online Harassment Hotline

The first 24/7, free, and confidential support service for anyone experiencing online harassment in Pakistan, focusing on 4 main program areas: User Support, S…


This project improved the sustainability and cross platform compatibility of the MeasurementKit project.

Rights Action Lab

The Rights Action Lab is focused on building the capabilities of three Tibetan civil society organizations (CSOs) so they can better respond to emergency respo…

Sub Saharan-Africa Cyber Regionalism and Elections

The project generated detailed studies of information controls in Lesotho, Rwanda and Angola.

NetBlocks Framework

NetBlocks is a modular technology framework for internet governance transparency, enabling real-time detection and monitoring of mass-scale network controls wh…

Checkdesk Sources

Checkdesk Sources is a powerful open source toolkit for journalists and transparency advocates to track online social media sources and quickly assess whether …

Tor BSD Diversity Project

The Tor BSD Diversity Project (TDP) is an initiative which extended the use of the BSD Unix operating systems in the Tor public anonymity network.

Certbot Improvements

Certbot is a tool built by EFF to help encrypt the Internet by installing SSL/TLS certificates for free. Previously known as the “Let’s Encrypt client”, Certb…


Wechatscope aims to develop a systematic, scalable and robust system to collect, analyze, and visualize a representative set of censored messages of Wechat’s p…

Suspicious Email Submitter

The Suspicious Email Submitter is an extension for common web browsers and email clients that enables the user in one-click to submit a suspicious email with a…

Derechos Digitales

Derechos Digitales, assisted with bringing online privacy and anonymity to various communities in Latin America.

Adversary Lab

Adversary Lab is a service that analyzes captured network traffic to extract statistical properties.


NewNode is the first decentralized peer-to-peer content delivery protocol, enabling data distribution free from censorship, spying, and attack.

Sub-Saharan Africa Cyber Threat Modeling

This project detected, documented, and analyzed current and emerging cyber threats with a long term goal to mitigate their impact on users at risk in specific …

Securing Domain Validation

This project secures Internet domain validation against attackers that manipulate Internet routing via Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) hijack and interception at…


CGIProxy is “the original anti-censorship software,” allowing anyone anywhere to view and share web content.

Human Rights Internet Censorship Dashboards for South-East Asia

The project is focused on providing an accessible means of understanding censorship occurring in Southeast Asia.


This project seeks to build a suite of provisioning tooling to allow for automated deployment and management of OSS groupware tools, secure communication, circ…

Server-Side Investigation: Characterizing and Measuring VPN Service Providers

Current efforts to understand the state of censorship often neglects the existence of server-side blocking, monitoring, and tampering; especially when private …


This project focused on building a research framework for individuals analyzing information controls through network measurements.

Security Policy Generator

Security Support for Sexual Minority Groups in Nigeria

Internet Outage Detection and Analysis

IODA is an operational prototype system that monitors the Internet, in near-realtime, to identify macroscopic Internet outages affecting the edge of the networ…

Fake Antenna Detection Project


Helping human rights organizations in repressive contexts better utilize Tahoe-LAFS, an open source, secure option for file storage, sharing, and management.


Furthering the development of MassBrowser, a volunteer-driven censorship circumvention tool.

Tor Onion Services

The Tor Project will improve onion services, one of the few censorship circumvention technologies that allow users to route around censorship while simultaneou…

Slowdowns as Censorship

Measuring and countering throttling as a censorship mechanism


Building a more secure, accessible and resilient WireGuard VPN protocol


Preserving media content in the face of censorship

Strengthening Digital Security for Journalists and HRDs in Mexico

Delta Chat

Enabling decentralized secure messaging utilizing email provider infrastructure


A technology utilizing peer-to-peer networking and distributed storage to enable censorship circumvention

FORT RPKI Validator

Routing Technology for a Free and Open Internet

Security Training and Support for LGBTIQ Communities and Allies in Indonesia

Providing holistic digital security training for LGBTIQ organizations in Indonesia

Digital Security Skill-Building for Grassroots NGOs in Mexico

Improving long-term digital security practices for at-risk groups in Mexico


Helping document and monitor security interventions

Evolving Censorship Evasion Strategies

This project seeks to automate the censorship circumvention process, training AI to quickly test and learn viable circumvention techniques.

5G and Human Rights

This project will analyze the societal risks of network virtualization and autonomation in new digital communication infrastructures.


Creating an open source app store customized for MENA region users


Improving the digital security of independent media and human rights organizations by developing and deploying censorship-resistant WireGuard-based VPN connect…


Building networked apps that can remain connected in the event of a complete Internet shutdown

Azerbaijan Internet Watch

This project will address the large information gap that currently exists around critical developments related to Internet freedom in Azerbaijan, which has tak…


Developing an open source library that offers tools for offline-network communication based on sending data through BlueTooth, WiFi, and ultrasonic-sound techn…

Secure UX Design Method

Developing a how-to guide for researchers, engineers, product managers, designers, and teams who are working with highly at-risk communities.


Criteria and the application process


Quality of project idea: Applications should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to the mission of promoting freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online.

Ability to achieve objectives: A relevant work plan should demonstrate substantive undertakings and logistical capacity of the organization. The work plan should adhere to the overview and guidelines described above. Objectives should be ambitious, yet measurable and achievable. After this application, OTF will request a full proposal, where applicants will have to provide a monthly timeline of project activities.

Cost effectiveness: Any overhead and administrative components included in the application should be kept as low as possible. All items should be necessary and appropriate. Cost sharing is strongly encouraged and is viewed favorably by OTF.

Multiplier effect/sustainability: Applications should address how the expected results will contribute to improving Internet freedom goals. Applications should address how the effort will be sustained in the long-term.

Applicants’ record and capacity: OTF will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants. Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to achieve the project’s objectives.

Application Process

Submitting a concept note is always the first step to getting the process started. If your concept note is accepted, you will be invited to submit a full proposal.

For a full rundown of desired project criteria and the application process, head here.

When are requests for applications made?

Internet Freedom Fund concept notes are accepted on a rolling basis, with submission rounds closing every two months. For the next upcoming batch deadline, see the header at the top of this page. Please note that concept notes must be submitted via the OTF website no later than 23:59 (11:59PM) GMT on the deadline date listed at the top of this page in order to be considered for that round.

To stay up to date on this and other OTF funding opportunities, sign up to join the OTF-announce mailing list.

Advisory Council

Gunnar Hellekson

Chief Strategist, Red Hat

Advisory Council

Anthony D. Joseph

University of California at Berkeley

Advisory Council

Gustaf Björksten

Technology Director, Access

Advisory Council

Bruce Schneier

Security Technologist and Author

Advisory Council

Cory Doctorow

Author, Journalist, and Activist

Advisory Council

Chad Hurley

Director, Office of Internet Freedom, Broadcasting Board of Governors

Advisory Council

Mohamad Najem

Advocacy and Policy Director, Social Media Exchange (SMEX)

Advisory Council

Mohammed Al-Maskati

Digital Security Consultant, Front Line Defenders

Advisory Council

Sanne Stevens

Advisory Council

Bryan Nunez

Program Officer at Open Society Human Rights Initiative

Advisory Council

Alix Dunn

Executive Director and Co-Founder, The Engine Room

Advisory Council

Susan McGregor

Tow Center for Digital Journalism & Columbia Journalism School

Advisory Council

Stefania Milan

Advisory Council

Jillian C. York

Director for International Freedom of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Advisory Council

Leigh Honeywell

Senior Staff Security Engineer, Slack

Advisory Council

Matt Mitchell


Advisory Council

Karen Renaud

Usable Security; Privacy Lead, School of Computing Science, University of Glasgow

Advisory Council

Bernard Tyers

Interaction Designer and User Researcher

Advisory Council

Carrie Winfrey

Design Strategist and User Experience Designer

Advisory Council

Susan Farrell

UX Research and Strategy at All Turtles

Advisory Council

Roya Ensafi

Advisory Council

Marcin de Kaminski

Advisory Council

Arthur Gwagwa

Award information

OTF awards are performance-based contracts (see an example template here) signed directly with the applicant. Payment is issued on completion of stated objectives, activities, and deliverable per a schedule outlined in the contract. OTF reserves the right to award less or more than the funds requested as deemed in the best interest of OTF’s priorities.

Applications that request more than the award ceiling of $900,000 or less than the award floor of $10,000 may be deemed technically ineligible. Note that OTF’s target support ceiling is $300,000, with most supported efforts receiving between $50,000 and $200,000.

Application requirements, submission, and deadlines

Project and Budget Periods

OTF awards are generally 6 to 18 months in duration. From time to time, OTF may consider requests to extend existing contracts beyond previously agreed upon duration. Any such decision will be subject to availability of funds, satisfactory progress of the applicants, and a determination that continued funding would be in the best interest of program priorities.

Monitoring & Evaluation

Successful applicants selected by OTF are paired with an OTF program manager who oversees all project monitoring and evaluation for the duration of the awarded contract life-cycle. Monitoring and evaluation assessments are largely based on predetermined and agreed upon metrics, deliverable, and goals as laid out by the applicant in the project proposal work-plan.

As described above, because payment is dispersed at regular intervals upon completion of stated contractual goals, successful applicants can expect regular contact with their OTF project manager. Monitoring consists of compulsory monthly reports and also phone, email, or in-person discussions and consultations as needed.


Ideal applicants are making use of, support, or develop open and accessible technologies promoting human rights and open societies, and help advance inclusive and safe access to global communications networks. In addition, ideal applicants meet one or more of the following:

  • Individuals of all ages irrespective of nationality, residency, creed, gender, or other factors, with the exception that 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);
  • Non-profit organization/non-government organization, including U.S.-based NGO, PIO, or foreign NGO;
  • Non-profit university or research institution in any country;
  • For-profit organization or business in any country;
  • Consortia of multiple people or organizations with one individual or organization designated as the lead applicant;
  • Have demonstrated experience administering successful projects, preferably targeting the requested program area, or similarly challenging program environments where OTF reserves the right to request additional background information on organizations;
  • Ideal applicants should not duplicate or simply add to efforts supported by other USG funding programs;
  • Ideal applicants must not reflect any type of support for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization, whether or not elected members of government.

A Commitment to Diversity

OTF prioritizes projects coming from individuals or organizations who are new to the Internet freedom community, identify as under-represented within the field, and are requesting less than $300,000 for efforts with a duration less than 12 months. This allows us to empower a new pool of technology and development talent that may not have been otherwise supported.