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December 2016 Monthly Report

| By: Dan McDevitt

In December, the Open Technology Fund continued to both receive a large number of support requests and support a diverse portfolio of internet freedom projects and fellows. Closing out the 2016 calendar year, OTF in total received more than 650 requests for support totaling nearly $87 million, dwarfing OTF’s 2015 funding capacity.

Notable accomplishments

  • OTF’s rapid response support of censorship measurement in Ethiopia, bolstered by a joint collaboration between OTF-supported OONI and Amnesty International, found that there has been systematic and illegal blocked access to social media and news websites following an escalation of political protests. In-country censorship tests conducted via OONI probe found that WhatsApp was blocked and the presence of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology, which enables content monitoring and filtering. Read the report here: https://ooni.torproject.org/post/ethiopia-report/

  • Censorship detection research platform OONI released ooniprobe 2.1.0, which includes support for running IM tests (WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger) alongside tests for access to blocked websites, the Tor network, and the presence of censorship and surveillance systems. The more user-friendly web interface allows users to run censorship tests from a web browser. Read more about the ooniprobe release and its features here: https://ooni.torproject.org/post/web-ui-post/

  • Secure desktop operating system Subgraph OS released a new alpha version of its platform, featuring the addition of OnionShare, an application that allows for secure file transfer via the Tor network, and Ricochet, a secure chat tool that also runs over Tor. Read more about the release and link to download here: https://subgraph.com/blog/subgraph-dec2016-iso-availability/


  • Bazaar released the first public instance of their F-Droid Verification Server, which automatically reproduces applications available on the F-Droid secure app distribution platform in order to cross-check whether they match the official release, thereby enhancing the platform’s security. Access the F-Droid Verification Server here: https://verification.f-droid.org/


  • The Journalists in Distress project finished up its OTF-supported work, completing an assessment of the digital security practices used by the Journalists in Distress network, a group of free expression organizations that operate similar emergency response programs to help journalists and human rights defenders around the world. The project also included a freely available online resource for journalists in high-risk environments to better understand the digital threats they face. Access “Journalists in Distress: Securing Your Online Life” here: http://www.cjfe.org/journalists_in_distress_securing_your_digital_life

  • Information Controls Fellow Grace Mutung’u continued work focused on monitoring information controls in the context of Kenya’s upcoming 2017 elections. As the election season heats up, communications technologies are being blocked by state authorities - curtailing transparency of policy formation. Grace provides useful background on Kenyan civil society’s approach to the situation in this blog post: http://www.diplointernetgovernance.org/profiles/blogs/a-brief-on-technology-and-elections-in-kenya-2017

  • As of January 2016, the Internet Freedom Festival has 1,100 participants registered, representing 105 countries and of which 48% are women. We expect the final registration numbers to surpass 1,400. In addition, over 500 sessions were submitted, of which 210 were selected. This does not include the various networking events planned outside of the official IFF program.

Select news collected by OTF from the month of December 2016 - Get the full feed live @OpenTechFund
Encryption App ‘Signal’ Fights Censorship With a Clever Workaround | Wired
Turkey blocks access to Tor anonymising network | BBC
Egypt has blocked encrypted messaging app Signal | Engadget
Research: When the Internet Goes Down in Bangladesh | Georgia Institute of Technology
Xinjiang, Tense Chinese Region, Adopts Strict Internet Controls | New York Times
New Kremlin Information-Security Doctrine For ‘Managing’ Internet In Russia | RFERL
Azerbaijan - Renewed use of trumped-up charges censor journalists | RSF
Moscow Learns From Beijing on Internet Censorship | China Digital Times
One App, Two Systems: How WeChat uses one censorship policy in China and another internationally | Citizen Lab