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May 2016 Monthly Report

| By: Dan McDevitt

In May, the Open Technology Fund continued supporting its diverse portfolio of Internet freedom projects and fellows. In the latest completed Internet Freedom Fund submission round which closed on May 1, OTF received 58 concept notes requesting over $15 million in support. This is more than double the number of concept notes received in the same round last year, requesting nearly four times as much money.

Notable accomplishments

  • Lantern, a censorship circumvention mobile app that delivers fast and secure access to blocked sites, had over one million monthly active users for the first time in May, with over 7 million sessions in Iran, nearly 10 million in China, and almost 4 million in other countries. Lantern can be downloaded from the Google Play store both in English and Chinese.

  • Internet users in Uganda turned to Tor when the country shut down social media throughout the country in the lead-up to longtime President Yoweri Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony, mirroring a similar censorship event in the country from February, as seen in the graph below. Read more about this Uganda censorship event here.

  • Secure Usability Fellow Gus Andrew published UX reports detailing the usability of Psiphon VPN for Android and the Pixelated Webmail Client, analyzing both tools with regard to issues like their ease-of-use, translation quality, loading speed, and more. Read the Psiphon report here and the Pixelated report here.

  • Censorship detection research platform OONI was used to measure and track government-imposed censorship events in Brazil (WhatsApp block), Uganda (social media), and Venezuela (internet censorship).

  • Mailvelope, a browser extension that facilitates email encryption for users of browser based email providers, released Mailvelope v1.4, which features file encryption support and a public key search function. Read more from Mailvelope here: https://www.mailvelope.com/blog/file-encryption-hkp-search

  • CIPESA published a report detailing Twitter activity in Uganda surrounding parliamentary elections held in February. Many internet users in Uganda utilized Twitter to share and discuss election-related news, despite Twitter (and other social media) being blocked in the country at the time. Read CIPESA’s “Analysis of Twitter Activity on Election Eve and Election Day in Uganda” here: http://cipesa.org/?wpfb_dl=216

  • Tails, a privacy and anonymity enhancing operating system, released versions 2.4, which can be downloaded here: https://tails.boum.org/news/version_2.4/index.en.html

  • ICFP fellow Griffin Boyce released version 1.2 of previously OTF-supported Cupcake, a browser extension that makes your web browser a “bridge” to the Tor network, helping users in censored environments connect to the internet and expanding the Tor relay network. Download Cupcake for Chrome here and for Firefox here.

  • The Committee to Protect Journalists recommended that journalists use WhatsApp or Signal as a secure method of digital communications for their “…use [of] the Signal encryption protocol, which is based on open, well-tested cryptographic algorithms. The Signal protocol, which CPJ staff use for our most sensitive work, has been reviewed and endorsed by leading security experts.” The Signal protocol was developed by OTF-supported Open Whisper Systems. Read the full CPJ blog here: https://cpj.org/blog/2016/05/why-telegrams-security-flaws-may-put-irans-journal.php

  • Qubes, a security-focused free and open source operating system, was featured in a multi-series profile by Linux Journal. The author notes that Qubes is “fundamentally different from any other Linux desktop [they’ve] ever used” and one that takes “extra security measures.” Read the Qubes introduction here and the installation guide here.

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

Effort to Expose Russia’s ‘Troll Army’ Draws Vicious Retaliation | New York Times
Russia’s chief internet censor enlists China’s know-how | Financial Times
How Tanzanian journalists use WhatsApp to report the news | IJNet
This Map Tracks Where Governments Hack Activists and Reporters | Wired
China’s scary lesson to the world: Censoring the Internet works. | Washington Post
Russia Seeks China’s Help Controlling the Internet | Voice of America
How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument | Gary King
Blogger killings leading to ‘self-censorship’ in Bangladesh | DW
Why The Growing Unpredictability Of China’s Censorship Is A Feature, Not A Bug | Techdirt

Projects Mentioned