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The Rapid Response Fund aims to facilitate the digital emergency response community to resolve threats in a timely and comprehensive manner for individuals, communities, and organizations whose free expression has recently been repressed. To resolve digital emergencies, OTF offers both direct financial support as well as technical services from trusted partners to high-risk people and organizations, such as bloggers, cyber activists, journalists, and human rights defenders.
Next deadline: 
Ongoing

Setting the stage

The Rapid Response Fund offers two types of support to organizations, activists, journalists, and other human rights defenders facing digital attacks and emergencies of various kinds: 1) technological services from trusted service partners and 2) direct financial support for the many needs that cannot be fulfilled by available service partners. For either form of support, the process starts with a single application. Support is only available through the Rapid Response Fund when there is a clear time-sensitive digital emergency in which an applicant is seeking short-term and urgent support.

The Rapid Response Fund does not provide support for projects that are more long-term in nature or that aim to build digital security capacity among groups or organizations. If you are interested in receiving support for longer term capacity building, please consider applying to OTF’s Digital Integrity Fellowship Program. You can stay up to date on all OTF submission deadlines and open submissions windows for other potential funders by joining the OTF-announce mailing list. To join, please send a message via this page with subscribe in the subject line.

Service Providers

We only work with service providers who are highly sensitive to and well-aware of specific needs and challenges of human rights activists, journalists, and the Internet freedom community. OTF’s current partners include Virtual Road and Greenhost. These service providers regularly work with individuals and organizations who are subject to repressive regimes or vulnerable to malicious censorship and surveillance. To respond to requests as quickly as possible, OTF maintains open agreements with these partners to provide the following services.

Currently supported services

  • Digital security audits for organizations
  • DDoS response and mitigation
  • Secure web hosting
  • Secure hosting, monitoring, and resiliency of websites during special events (elections, campaigns etc.)
  • VPN connections
  • Safe internet connections
  • Forensic analysis of digital attacks
  • Recovery of compromised websites
  • Audit of presumably compromised websites
  • Malware analysis

Direct Financial Support

When a rapid response applicant’s needs are not sufficiently covered by our Services Partners, OTF can provide financial support directly to activists, journalists and related organizations to help prepare for or mitigate digital threats or emergencies. We provide anywhere from $1 to $50,000 for a period of six months or less for individuals or groups carrying out efforts such as:

  • Establishing new Internet connections (such as VPNs) when existing connections have been cut off or are being restricted;
  • Providing personal digital protection for online journalists, human rights defenders, NGOs, activists and bloggers;
  • Rapid development of tools or translations needed to respond adequately to emergencies;
  • Developing decentralized, mobile Internet applications that can link computers as an independent network (mesh or delay-tolerant networks);
  • Any appropriate response to digital emergencies not listed above

Review panel

Criteria

  • Quality of project idea: When applying for direct funding, applications should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to the mission of promoting freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online. Ability to achieve objectives: A relevant work plan should demonstrate substantive undertakings and logistical capacity of the organization. The work plan should adhere to the program overview and guidelines described above. Objectives should be ambitious, yet specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. For complete scopes of work, applicants will have to provide a monthly timeline of project activities.
  • Multiplier effect/sustainability: Proposed programs should address how the expected results will contribute to improving Internet freedom goals.
  • Applicant’s record and capacity OTF will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants.

Submissions are viewable by the OTF team and advisory council for evaluation and acceptance. To this end, all Rapid Response requests are reviewed and approved by RFA’s President, legal counsel, budget officer, and OTF to assess the project’s necessity, appropriateness, risk, legality, and contractual structure. Though we cannot guarantee absolute secrecy of information disclosed, we seek to avoid disclosure of sensitive information beyond the Advisory Council and OTF team. We strive to assess and approve Rapid Response applications as quickly as possible, and make every effort to make a decision within 5 days.

Advisory council
Advocacy and Policy Director, Social Media Exchange (SMEX)

Mohamad ​leads and assists in various campaigns throughout the Arab world, mainly around ​​digital rights.

Advisory council
Digital Security Consultant, Front Line Defenders

Mohammed al-Maskati is a Bahraini human rights activist and digital security consultant working with Front Line Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Advisory council
Program Officer, Hivos

Sanne Stevens is a Program Officer for Hivos at the Digital Defenders Partnership. In late 2012, the Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP) was established to provide rapid response to threats to internet freedom. The Partnership aims at keeping the internet open and free from emerging threats, specifically in internet repressive and transitional environments.

Advisory council
Independent Security Advisor

John Adams is an independent security advisor, focusing on information security, user privacy, and secure distributed systems. As one of the earliest engineers at Twitter, he spent the last seven years building Twitter’s Information Security team and ensuring secure operations at scale.

Advisory council
Digital Security Consultant

Wojtek Bogusz is a digital information and communication security consultant, providing training and support to human rights activists on how to increase the privacy and freedom of communication in repressive environments. He currently works for the Dublin-based Front Line Defenders, an international foundation for the protection of human rights defenders (www.frontlinedefenders.org).

Advisory council
Program Officer at Open Society Human Rights Initiative

Bryan Nunez is a program officer with the Open Society Human Rights Initiative. His work focuses on technology and human rights. A technologist who has spent over 10 years working on technologies for human rights and social change, Nunez was previously a member of the Guardian Project, an open-source mobile-security software organization.

Award information

Any organization or person within OTF’s remit who requires urgent assistance related to a digital emergency can apply to the Rapid Response Fund through the request form provided below. The total value of support cannot exceed 50,000 USD. Average support amounts are between 5,000 and 25,000 USD.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Recognizing that digital emergencies and response to those emergencies are unique to each situation, we individually tailor monitoring and evaluation of these efforts. M&E can include a periodic report on the successes/shortfalls of the support, a report back upon completion of support, or some other appropriate method of communication.

Application requirements, submission, and deadlines

OTF accepts applications on a rolling basis.

See the application below. Before completing a submission, we strongly encourage you to review our Terms of Service. If you have any questions at all, please email us at [email protected].

Eligibility

Do not let the below scare you away. Consider them as a starting point for discussion, and always apply. If you have any concerns, please contact us directly at [email protected] That said, individuals should meet the following criteria in order to be eligible for funding:

  • Individuals of all ages irrespective of nationality, creed or sex;
  • Individuals who demonstrate skill and ability to conduct rapid response work;
  • Individuals who have intimate knowledge of the communities they are working with, and the digital threats they experience.

We are not able to support applicants within countries that the United States has trade restrictions or export sanctions as determined by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC);

All payments will be made in U.S. dollars (USD) and will comply with local laws, regulations and ethics rules. Each applicant is responsible for the tax consequences of any support they receive, as determined by the laws of their country.

It is each individual and organization’s sole responsibility to comply with any policies any pre-existing employer, etc. may have that would affect your eligibility to receive support from OTF.

Other requests

Next deadline: 
Jan 1, 2018
The Internet Freedom Fund is OTF's primary way to support projects and people working on open and accessible technology-centric projects that promote human rights, internet freedom, open societies, and help advance inclusive and safe access to global communications networks for at-risk users including journalists, human rights defenders, civil society activists, and every-day people living within repressive environments who wish to speak freely online.
Next deadline: 
Jan 1, 2018
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Next deadline: 
Ongoing
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