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September 2016 Monthly Report

| By: Dan McDevitt

In September, the Open Technology Fund continued to receive a large number of support requests and to support a diverse slate of Internet Freedom projects and capacity-building fellowships. This month, OTF released its FY2015 Annual Report, summarizing the 18 months of operation ending in Spring 2016. Among the highlights: more than 1 billion people began regularly using OTF-supported technology, while the OTF team reviewed and responded to well over 400 requests for funding totaling close to $50 million. Read more highlights and the full FY2015 annual report here.

Notable accomplishments

  • From January - September 2016, the OTF Localization Lab has translated 1,302,874 and edited 686,994 words for over 50 Internet Freedom tools and projects through a crowdsourced community effort with more than 5,000 contributing members. This program enables consistent, reliable and quality controlled translation services replacing prohibitively expensive tool by tool efforts. The Localization Lab also released the first edition of its new newsletter, which can be found here.

  • Capping off their OTF-supported work, Qubes, a security-focused free and open source operating system, released Qubes OS 3.2, updated with a number of feature and security improvements to the user-friendly operating system. More about the release here and download Qubes 3.2 here.


  • Information Controls Fellow Arthur Gwagwa collaborated with OTF-supported OONI on extensive research into information controls in Zambia during the 2016 election period. Through this analysis, Gwagwa noted that the Zambian government has spent millions working with Chinese companies for the installation of advanced surveillance equipment, and possibly the development of backdoors within networks. Read the report here.

  • Censorship detection research platform OONI integrated two new tests for examining government interference on popular messaging applications WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The test specifications can be viewed on GitHub here.

  • The LEAP Encryption Access Project, which works to adapt encryption technology for more widespread adoption and use, released LEAP Platform 0.8.2, addressing security issues with VPN services and Tor compatibility issues. Read more about the release here.

  • Tor, a free security and privacy enhancing internet browser, released Tor Browser version 6.0.5, featuring important security updates to Firefox including a vulnerability that had made it possible for an attacker to impersonate Mozilla’s servers and push a “malicious extension update” to unsuspecting users. Read more about the Tor 6.0.5 release here and download Tor here.

  • Privacy and anonymity-enhancing operating system Tails released Tails version 2.6, featuring patches for several security issues affecting previous versions of Tails. You can read more about the 2.6 release here and download Tails here.

  • CIPESA (the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa) hosted the African Internet Freedom Forum in Kampala, Uganda, convening hundreds of journalists, human rights defenders, activists, and government officials from throughout the region to present research, discuss pressing censorship and surveillance issues, and facilitate cross-collaboration between these various stakeholders. To coincide with the event, CIPESA released “State of Internet Freedom in Africa 2016,” analyzing internet censorship and surveillance trends in several countries on the continent. Read the report here.

  • Demands for digital security assistance in Indonesia have increased significantly following proposed legislation that severely restricts the free speech rights of journalists and human rights defenders, coupled with a corresponding increase in online censorship of its citizens. Throughout the month, Digital Integrity Fellow Dhyta Caturani has been providing rapid response digital security assistance to the targeted LBGT journalist and activist community in Indonesia.

    Select news collected by OTF from the month of September 2016 - Get the full feed live @OpenTechFund
    China Gives Police Powers to Monitor Social Media Friends, Chat Groups | Radio Free Asia
    Thailand’s government is using child ‘Cyber Scouts’ to monitor dissent | Vice News
    The Case Against a Golden Key | Foreign Affairs
    Conference pushes for Cuba to move forward, expand internet freedom | NBC News
    Police call for Grindr and other gay-friendly apps to be banned in Indonesia | Daily Dot
    Cuba government filtering mobile text messages, dissidents say | Reuters
    Iran Declares ‘Unveiling’ of its National Internet | Global Voices Advocacy
    China regulator to curb news that promotes ‘Western lifestyles’ | Reuters

Projects Mentioned