In April, the Open Technology Fund continued funding its diverse portfolio of Internet freedom projects and fellows with remainder funds from FY2015. Of note, as of May 1, OTF has received over 400 requests for support since the start of calendar year 2016, seeking more than $50 million of funding.
- Facebook announced in April that for the first time, over one million people used Tor to access the social network securely, reflecting the increasing prioritization ordinary netizens place on the ability to access the Internet and its social networks safely and securely. Read more here.
- Open Whisper Systems announced that Signal, a user-friendly encrypted communication app that provides secure calling and messaging, is now available in a beta desktop version. This provides Signal mobile users with a simple way to seamlessly sync across devices while maintaining the security of Signal’s end-to-end encryption. Read more from Open Whisper Systems here: https://whispersystems.org/blog/signal-desktop-public/
- Previously supported GlobaLeaks was used by activists to expose the existence and utilization of the Ecuadorian government’s Internet censorship mechanisms. Internal documents, obtained securely by activist group Ecuador Transparente via the GlobaLeaks platform, revealed that an Ecuadorian ISP collective organization (in control of 95% of Ecuador’s ISPs) was “blocking access to certain Internet websites by request of the National Government.” Read more here.
- ICFP fellow Wafa Ben Hassine’s report tracking legal threats to free speech throughout the Arab world was released by her host organization, EFF. The report outlines the misapplication of counterterrorism and cyber-security laws in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Read “The Crime of Speech: How Arab Governments Use the Law to Silence Expression Online” here: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/04/crime-speech
- Greatfire, which enables access to blocked websites and messages deleted by Chinese censors, took home an award at this year’s annual Index Awards 2016 in the digital activism category for their work combatting Chinese censorship. OTF commends GreatFire on their award and for their continued efforts to combat Chinese Internet censorship: https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2016/04/indexawards2016-greatfire-acceptance-speech/
- Pushsecure released a new version of its secure messaging tool ChatSecure with iOS v3.2, enabling “the first phase of a new form of push messaging that is decentralized, interoperable, and reduces identifiable metadata.” You can download ChatSecure here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chatsecure-encrypted-messenger/id464200063
- ASL19 hosted the Iran Cyber Dialogue alongside RightsCon, a human rights-centric conference, with discussions focusing on increasing circumvention tool use among civil society and targeted phishing and malware campaigns attacking Iranian activists and journalists. Info on these and other sessions here: https://asl19.org/en/icd/2016/blog/2016-03-27-asl19-at-rightscon.html
- K-9 Mail continued testing a new alpha version of its secure mobile email application while also releasing an updated public version (v5.010), available for download via the Google Playstore: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fsck.k9
- Secure app distribution platform Bazaar’s parent organization The Guardian Project announced a public partnership with open-source Android operating system CopperheadOS and free/open-source ‘app-store’ F-Droid, aiming to increase sustainability and cooperate to create a “full [secure] mobile ecosystem.” More: https://guardianproject.info/2016/03/28/copperhead-guardian-project-and-f-droid-partner-to-build-open-verifiably-secure-mobile-ecosystem/
- OTF welcomed Trinh Nguyen as a member of the MDF team. Bringing a wealth of experience in both human rights activism, technology and the Internet freedom community, Trinh adds invaluable knowledge to the group.
- Qubes OS, security-focused free and open source operating system, published several useful documentation guides, including a video tour of Qubes: https://www.qubes-os.org/tour/ and a guide to installing Martus, a secure documentation tool for human rights activists, on Qubes: https://www.qubes-os.org/doc/martus/
Select news collected by OTF from the month of April 2016 – Get the full feed live @OpenTechFund
With Facebook no longer a secret weapon, Egypt’s protesters turn to Signal | The Intercept
The origins of Hacking Team and how their spyware targeted dissidents and activists | Foreign Policy
How African governments block social media | BBC
Mobile Internet Blocked, Strike Called As Patel Groups, Police Clash In Gujarat | NDTV
Great Firewall Necessary to Keep Out Western Propaganda, Chinese Newspaper Says | Wall Street Journal
Chinese Voice Frustration Over ‘Great Firewall’ | Wall Street Journal
Chinese style internet censorship coming to Zimbabwe | Techzim
WhatsApp’s encryption could make it a target of the Chinese government | Quartz