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June 2016 Monthly Report

| By: Dan McDevitt

In June, the Open Technology Fund continued supporting its diverse portfolio of Internet freedom projects and fellows. At the end of June, OTF completed numerous application windows around our Internet Freedom Fund, Core Infrastructure Fund, and Secure Usability Fellowship, and has started the review process for what was the largest concept note round in OTF history. So far in 2016, OTF has already received nearly 500 requests for support totaling nearly $60 million.

Notable accomplishments

  • Qubes, a security-focused free and open source operating system, released the first release candidate of Qubes 3.2. This newest version of Qubes includes improved usability and hardware compatibility, with a new “USB passthrough” feature now making it possible to securely connect a single USB device to any qube (a compartment of your system). Read more and download here.

  • Censorship detection research platform OONI released “Web Connectivity,” a new research tool that detects three different types of censorship: DNS tampering, TCP/IP blocking, and HTTP blocking. Web Connectivity makes identifying blocked content easier while also shedding light on how it is being blocked. More about Web Connectivity here.

  • SecondMuse released a new needfinding report analyzing the environment in which Uganda’s LGBT human rights defenders operate with respect to communications methods, digital security, threat awareness, and tools and strategies used by locals to increase their privacy and safety. With the LGBT community in Uganda facing both physical and digital threats on a daily basis, Secondmuse found that this community faces “vast and varied” threats, recommending a community-based approach to increase the digital security and safety of LGBT people in Uganda. Read the report here (pdf).

  • Serval, a messaging app that allows for communication in the event that one’s mobile phone network is knocked out, released Serval Mesh version 0.93, featuring Bluetooth added as a usable network transport for use in Android devices. Serval can be downloaded from the Google Play store here.

  • Clatter, a suite of lightweight and standalone libraries, is under development with OTF support, aiming to create common protocols and standards for existing projects to add in secure nearby communication without having to sacrifice their unique approach and usability.

  • Mailvelope, a browser extension that facilitates email encryption for users of browser based email providers, made several notable UX improvements including a simplified recipient key lookup feature. Mailvelope also released the Mailvelope OpenPGP key server, allowing for automatic public key lookup for a simplified secure email experience. Check it out at https://keys.mailvelope.com/.

  • Former ICFP fellow Jason Q. Ng’s research on censorship on Chinese social media platform WeChat was discussed in a New York Times article, highlighting how China has increasingly censored seemingly “mundane matters, devoting time and server strength to preventing rumors, fabricated news reports and superstitious premonitions from going viral.” Read now in English and Chinese.

  • The Localization Lab hosted a localization sprint in Colombia to translate two internet freedom tools, OTF-supported Umbrella, an app that provides all the information needed for a human rights defender to operate safely, and Level Up, a website that provides digital safety training resources, into Spanish. Overall, the Localization Lab is translating 60 projects into 241 languages through crowd-sourced efforts of over 5,400 volunteers.

  • Digital Integrity Fellow Nighat Dad was honored with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Freedom Award, given in recognition of Dad’s work to create safer spaces online for at-risk Pakistani internet users through improved digital security practices and raising Pakistani internet users’ threat awareness. As a DIFP fellow, Dad will be training human rights activists and journalists on how to secure their online presence. Read more here.

  • GlobaLeaks, an open-source identity protecting secure submission tool, released the alpha version of GlobaLeaks version 3. To date, GlobaLeaks has been translated to 20 different languages with 50 more partially completed and 50 known deployments in over 25 countries.

  • Tor released Tor Browser version 6.0.2. Download the Tor browser here.

  • OTF and the Media Democracy Fund (MDF) have begun a new collaborative effort to provide private funding support for Internet freedom technologies. In line with Congress’s request that public funds for such efforts be “matched, to the maximum extent practicable, by sources other than the United States Government, including from the private sector,” this collaboration will allow more high-quality and worthwhile Internet freedom projects to receive support-a welcome development in light of the rise in global censorship and the corresponding increase in demand for privacy and security-enhancing tools.

    Select news collected by OTF from the month of June 2016 - Get the full feed live @OpenTechFund

Pakistan’s Troll Problem | The New Yorker
Exciting Internet freedom funding opportunities through State DRL | State Department
China Replaces Top Internet Regulator and Censor With Deputy | ABC News
At least a dozen countries considering or have enacted laws restricting online speech | Reuters
Russian Lawmakers Call For More Surveillance and Weaker Encryption | Fortune
Chinese Blogger Who Compiled Protest Data Missing, Believed Detained | Radio Free Asia
Effort to Expose Russia’s ‘Troll Army’ Draws Vicious Retaliation | New York Times
Governments Turn to Commercial Spyware to Intimidate Dissidents | New York Times
More African countries are blocking Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp during elections | Quartz

Projects Mentioned