House Foreign Affairs Committee leadership has introduced “The Open Technology Fund Authorization Act” (The OTF Act) which would establish the Open Technology Fund (OTF) as an independent grantee of the US Agency for Global Media. Lead sponsors, Ranking Member McCaul and Chairman Engel, were joined by Rep. Malinowski ( D-NJ) and Rep. Curtis (R-UT) as original co-sponsors to the Bill.
The introduction of this authorization is an important step in a bipartisan effort to ensure that OTF is able to further advance internet freedom globally by “countering internet censorship and repressive surveillance and protecting the internet as a platform for the free exchange of ideas, promotion of human rights and democracy, and advancement of a free press.” The OTF Act comes at a pivotal moment, as authoritarian regimes around the world are rapidly deploying advanced censorship and surveillance technologies — utilizing artificial intelligence — to control and manipulate the online information landscape in ways they never have before. With authoritarian regimes investing billions of dollars in repressive internet censorship and surveillance systems, it’s more important than ever that we support and protect those fighting for a free and open internet.
“Knowledge is power, which is why information blocking has long been a hallmark of oppression. In the digital era, tyrants and dictators around the world seek to further control their citizens by restricting, censoring, and surveilling the internet. This has been a growing trend in repressive regimes like China, Iran, and North Korea. The U.S. Agency for Global Media has already made significant headway to improve internet freedom globally, and by authorizing the OTF as an independent grantee, this bill will better position the U.S. to help those fighting against this form of tyranny.” – HFAC Ranking Member McCaul
“The Open Technology Fund is working on ways around government censorship and restriction of the internet. If a repressive regime builds a wall, the OTF is working to build an even taller ladder. I’m glad to support the OTF’s efforts and to join with Representative McCaul to authorize the fund in law.” – HFAC Chairman Engel
The OTF Act as introduced recognizes the success of OTF’s proven approach and provides clear guidance to enable OTF to support innovative anti-censorship and secure communications technologies at speed and scale. The legislation reflects industry-leading technical standards, such security audits and open source code, to ensure that the tools supported by OTF are as secure, accessible, transparent, and user-friendly as possible. It also mandates an open and competitive solicitation process to attract new and innovative ideas, as well as an independent, multi-disciplinary review process to ensure the highest degree of technical review and due diligence. This combination of nimbleness and rigor have been key to OTF’s success to date — with over 2 billion users of OTF-supported technology worldwide. This authorization legislation would enable OTF to build on this successful approach and empower OTF with a clear mandate to invest in cutting-edge technologies to proactively combat a new generation of technical threats.
OTF is grateful for this recognition and, more importantly, the support this legislation has received from a bipartisan Congressional coalition, whose members are championing the work of journalists, technologists, and human rights defenders, who are battling on the frontlines, to protect internet freedom. In a time when repressive regimes are increasingly willing to do and pay whatever it takes to control and censor the internet, this authorization would be an important step in making sure that internet freedom defenders around the world have the support and resources they need to protect a free and open internet for all.