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November 2018 Monthly Report

| By: Dan McDevitt

In November, the Open Technology Fund continued to both receive a large number of support requests and to support a diverse portfolio of internet freedom projects and fellows addressing Internet censorship and surveillance threats in closed societies around the world. This month, the OTF team continued to review the 150 concept notes submitted during the November 1 round while accepting new applications for the upcoming January 1 round. OTF also released the annual report for FY 2017, recapping programmatic operations during the fiscal year including the projects and fellows OTF supported, their accomplishments, and how the internet freedom landscape has evolved during this time. You can access the report here.

Notable accomplishments

  • Derechos Digitales worked with civil society partners in Central America to add several new Tor relays in the region while planning for the addition of others in the near future, enabling a more robust and reliable Tor network for users in the region. Further outreach and dissemination efforts are also planned with civil society groups throughout the region.
  • IODA, an operational prototype system that monitors the Internet in near-realtime to identify macroscopic Internet outages, is now working under contract with OTF to improve the platform’s underlying technical design, improve its user interface, publish reports on major internet outages, and raise awareness of IODA with relevant stakeholders.
  • Security Policy Generator is now working under OTF support to research security policies for civil society organizations (CSO), the results of which will inform the creation of a new, free-to-use online tool for creating security policies customized for CSOs. This will empower more CSOs to improve their own digital security capabilities and thus become more resilient to digital attacks.
  • Delta Chat gathered needs-finding information from at-risk users in Ukraine including journalists, trainers and activists, to utilize as “use cases” in the development and implementation of the decentralized chat application. This will enable the Delta Chat team to prioritize features specified by these users themselves.
  • Sub Saharan Africa Cyber Threat Modeling released their report on censorship events in Rwanda, utilizing OONI data to uncover connectivity anomalies on several websites containing content critical of the Rwandan government. The tests indicated that DNS tampering was the censorship method at play. Also this month, the project released a report on bandwidth throttling during Cameroon’s parliamentary and presidential elections in October 2018, finding that connections to social media and messaging apps were slowed down during the election period.
  • The Security Support for Sexual Minority Groups in Nigeria project continued conducting a device and risk assessment for a network of LGBTQI organizations in Nigeria, gathering information on staff’s current digital security practices and awareness. This risk assessment will help inform what areas need the most focus or improvement going forward.
  • CGIProxy released version 2.2.3 of its clientless circumvention tool, incorporating two key updates: (1) secure automatic upgrades, and (2) a privacy-respecting usage metric system. The update also featured numerous bug fixes and compatibility with most major websites. This significantly lowers the barrier to successful, secure use of the tool, making it easier and safer for non-technical users to successfully use CGIProxy.
  • Decentralized, encrypted messaging tool Briar completed work allowing support for RTL (right-to-left) languages, including Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew. Briar also added support for Bluetooth discovery when adding contacts, so phones running Android 8 and newer can add contacts via Bluetooth. The latest Briar release, 1.1., also includes support for obfs4, a pluggable transport for Tor that helps to evade attempts to block access to the Tor network.
  • Localization Lab enabled the translation of Orbot (mobile Tor app for Android) into Aymaran, making it the first digital security tool translated into the language spoken by over one million people in Bolivia, Peru, and Chile, primarily. Also this month, Mailvelope 3.0 was 100% translated into Spanish, Traditional Chinese and Japanese through the Localization Lab, which welcomed 48 new contributors supporting projects in Vietnamese, Serbian, Persian, French, Ukrainian, Bengali, Simplified Chinese, Hindi, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, Belarusian, and Spanish, among others. Over the course of the month volunteers translated a total of 170,413 words, edited 82,510 words and reviewed 69,425 words across projects in the Localization Lab Hub.
  • Usability Lab service provider Ura Design continued working on usability issues for the decentralized, censorship-resilient messaging tool Briar, focusing on image attachment features and Briar’s new UI for adding contacts remotely.

Projects Mentioned