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.
OONI : Open Observatory of Network Interference
Ooni-probe, the Open Observatory of Networking Interference, is an open source network testing framework and associated tests for detecting internet censorship.
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.
The OpenNet Africa initiative is working to bolster digital rights and security knowledge for at-risk groups in five African countries.
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 worke...
Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa
The Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa is an annual multi-stakeholder event focus on protecting and promoting internet rights throughout Africa, as well as ...
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...
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,...
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 res...
Sub Saharan-Africa Cyber Regionalism and Elections
The project generated detailed studies of information controls in Lesotho, Rwanda and Angola.
NetBlocks is a modular technology framework for internet governance transparency, enabling real-time detection and monitoring of mass-scale network controls ...
Checkdesk Sources is a powerful open source toolkit for journalists and transparency advocates to track online social media sources and quickly assess whethe...
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.
Wechatscope aims to develop a systematic, scalable and robust system to collect, analyze, and visualize a representative set of censored messages of Wechat’s...
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...
Derechos Digitales, wants to help bring online privacy and anonymity to various communities in Latin America.
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
The project will detect, document, and analyze 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 aims to secure Internet domain validation against attackers that manipulate Internet routing via Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) hijack and interc...
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 will create a website dashboard service that displays the current and past Internet censorship state of News Media, Political Criticism, Religion...
This project seeks to build a suite of provisioning tooling to allow for automated deployment and management of OSS groupware tools, secure communication, ci...
Server-Side Blocking: Characterizing and Measuring Service Provider’s Discrimination
Current efforts to understand nation-state censorship often neglects the existence of server-side blocking, when private companies such as VPN providers, con...
This project will build a research framework for individuals analyzing information controls through network measurements.
Security Policy Generator
Security Support for Sexual Minority Groups in Nigeria
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.
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.
Chief Strategist, Red Hat
Anthony D. Joseph
University of California at Berkeley
Director, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute
Security Technologist and Author
Author, Journalist, and Activist
Director, Office of Internet Freedom, Broadcasting Board of Governors
Advocacy and Policy Director, Social Media Exchange (SMEX)
Digital Security Consultant, Front Line Defenders
Program Officer at Open Society Human Rights Initiative
Executive Director and Co-Founder, The Engine Room
Tow Center for Digital Journalism & Columbia Journalism School
Assistant Professor of New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam
Jillian C. York
Director for International Freedom of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Senior Staff Security Engineer, Slack
Interaction Designer and User Researcher
Design Strategist and User Experience Designer
UX Research and Strategy at All Turtles
Marcin de Kaminski
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.