The Rapid Response Fund aims to facilitate the digital emergency response community to resolve threats in a timely and comprehensive manner for individuals, communities, and organizations whose free expression has recently been repressed. To resolve digital emergencies, OTF offers both direct financial support as well as technical services from trusted partners to high-risk people and organizations, such as bloggers, cyber activists, journalists, and human rights defenders.
Setting the stage
The Rapid Response Fund offers two types of support to organizations, activists, journalists, and other human rights defenders facing digital attacks and emergencies of various kinds:
- technological services from trusted service partners and
- direct financial support for the many needs that cannot be fulfilled by available service partners. For either form of support, the process starts with a single application. Support is only available through the Rapid Response Fund when there is a clear time-sensitive digital emergency in which an applicant is seeking short-term and urgent support.
The Rapid Response Fund does not provide support for projects that are more long-term in nature or that aim to build digital security capacity among groups or organizations. If you are interested in receiving support for longer term capacity building, please consider applying to OTF’s Internet Freedom Fund. We have also compiled a list of alternative sources of support for Rapid Response and digital security initiatives here.
You can stay up to date on all OTF submission deadlines and open submissions windows for other potential funders by joining the OTF-announce mailing list. To subscribe to the mailing list, please submit your email address to this page.
We work exclusively with service providers who are highly sensitive to and well-aware of specific needs and challenges of human rights activists, journalists, and the Internet freedom community. These service providers regularly work with individuals and organizations who are subject to repressive regimes or vulnerable to malicious censorship and surveillance. To respond to requests as quickly as possible, OTF maintains open agreements with these partners to provide the following services.
Currently supported services
Category (1): Organizational Security & Digital Security Support
- Digital security audits for organizations
- Urgent risk mitigation for organizations
- Rapid assessment and crisis response planning for organizations
- Organizational security improvements
- Digital security mentoring
Category (2): Digital Attacks Response & Forensic Analysis
- Analysis of malicious mobile apps
- Security Audits of web applications and systems
- Forensic analysis of digital attacks
- Recovery of compromised websites
- Audit of compromised websites
- Malware analysis
- DDoS response and mitigation
- Web application and website vulnerability assessments
- Analysis of compromised mobile phones
Category (3) Web Hosting
- Migration and onboarding support
- Secure web hosting
- Secure hosting, monitoring, and resiliency of websites during special events (elections, campaigns etc.)
- Provision of human rights abuse documentation tools
- Enabling access to blocked websites (e.g. website mirroring)
Category (4): Connectivity Issues Response
- Establishing VPN servers during digital emergencies
- Providing internet access alternatives during shutdowns/censorship events
- Analysis of Internet disruption events
- Network shutdown response
Direct Financial Support
When a rapid response applicant’s needs are not sufficiently covered by our Services Partners, OTF can provide financial support directly to activists, journalists and related organizations to help prepare for or mitigate digital threats or emergencies. We typically provide anywhere from $1 to $50,000 for a period of six months or less for individuals or groups carrying out relevant rapid response activities, although applications in excess of this sum can be considered on an exceptional basis. Relevant activities might include:
- Establishing new Internet connections (such as VPNs) when existing connections have been cut off or are being restricted;
- Providing personal digital protection for online journalists, human rights defenders, NGOs, activists and bloggers;
- Rapid development of tools or translations needed to respond adequately to emergencies;
- Developing decentralized, mobile Internet applications that can link computers as an independent network (mesh or delay-tolerant networks);
- Any appropriate response to digital emergencies not listed above
- Quality of project idea: When applying for direct funding, 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 program overview and guidelines described above. Objectives should be ambitious, yet specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. For complete scopes of work, applicants will have to provide a monthly timeline of project activities.
- Multiplier effect/sustainability: Proposed programs should address how the expected results will contribute to improving Internet freedom goals.
- Applicant’s record and capacity: OTF will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants.
Submissions are view-able by the OTF team for evaluation and acceptance. To this end, all Rapid Response requests are reviewed and approved by the OTF team to assess the project’s necessity, appropriateness, risk, legality, and contractual structure. Though we cannot guarantee absolute secrecy of information disclosed, we seek to avoid disclosure of sensitive information beyond the OTF team. We strive to assess and approve Rapid Response applications as quickly as possible, and make every effort to make a decision within 5 days.
Any organization or person within OTF’s remit who requires urgent assistance related to a digital emergency can apply to the Rapid Response Fund through the request form provided below.
We typically provide anywhere from $1 to $50,000 for a period of six months or less for individuals or groups carrying out relevant rapid response activities, although applications in excess of this sum can be considered on an exceptional basis.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Recognizing that digital emergencies and response to those emergencies are unique to each situation, we individually tailor monitoring and evaluation of these efforts. M&E can include a periodic report on the successes/shortfalls of the support, a report back upon completion of support, or some other appropriate method of communication.
Application requirements, submission, and deadlines
OTF accepts applications on a rolling basis.
Do not let the below scare you away. Consider them as a starting point for discussion, and always apply. If you have any concerns, please contact us directly at [email protected]. That said, individuals should meet the following criteria in order to be eligible for funding:
- Individuals of all ages irrespective of nationality, creed or sex;
- Individuals who demonstrate skill and ability to conduct rapid response work;
- Individuals who have intimate knowledge of the communities they are working with, and the digital threats they experience.
We are 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).
All payments will be made in U.S. dollars (USD) and will comply with local laws, regulations and ethics rules. Each applicant is responsible for the tax consequences of any support they receive, as determined by the laws of their country.
It is each individual and organization’s sole responsibility to comply with any policies any pre-existing employer, etc. may have that would affect your eligibility to receive support from OTF.
Independent Security Advisor
Digital Security Consultant
Jillian C. York
Director for International Freedom of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Frerieke van Bree
Program Manager Digital Defenders Partnership, Hivos
Jantine van Herwijnen
Programme Coordinator, Safety