The Information Controls Fellowship Program (ICFP) from the Open Technology Fund (OTF) supports examination of Internet shutdowns and other events that restrict the free flow of information over the Internet. With the call for the fellowship open until 13 March, OTF is calling on individuals within the RIPE community to apply.
Internet censorship and filtering plays a key role in limiting access to the Internet and undermining its technical resiliency. Over the past years, research has shown that, across the globe, the Internet is becoming less accessible and mandated Internet shutdowns are more common.
The RIPE community has key insights into some of these developments in real time through its research, including Internet measurements and responsive network operations. There is a need for further research on information controls to understand how they occur and are implemented, which will support both the RIPE community and communities on the ground as they work to access the open Internet.
In this short article, I will introduce the Open Technology Fund (OTF), where I currently work as the Vice President of Research, and outline how our work might be of interest to the RIPE community. In particular, I want to put OTF's Internet Controls Fellowship Program (ICFP) on the radar, given the deadline for this program is 13 March. The article below introduces the work of OTF, the Information Controls Fellowship, and our objectives as a funder of Internet Freedom research, projects, and tools.
The Open Technology Fund
The Open Technology Fund plays a key role in connecting technical communities with researchers and human rights defenders. OTF is an independent non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing Internet freedom in the world’s most repressive environments.
OTF supports the applied research, development, implementation, and maintenance of technologies that provide secure and uncensored Internet access to enable citizens worldwide to exercise their fundamental human rights online. Some examples of projects and tools that we support are the Open Observatory for Network Interference (OONI), the Ukraine Censorship Monitoring Project by Digital Security Lab Ukraine, and M-Lab.
OTF provides resources through funding and support mechanisms, such as our Internet Freedom Fund and various Labs (see here), that provide tailored and comprehensive assistance to Internet freedom projects. To counteract increasingly aggressive and sophisticated censorship and surveillance threats, OTF receives, reviews, and contracts projects on an ongoing basis. OTF solicits project ideas through a fully open and competitive application process on its website. The process is designed to reduce barriers to applying for funding and make funding more accessible to qualified individuals and organisations around the world working on the following issues:
- Protecting human rights online and unrestricted access to the Internet in repressive environments through technology development;
- Researching, developing, implementing, and maintaining technologies that circumvent censorship and surveillance techniques used by authoritarian governments and others to block or censor access to the Internet
- Providing secure communication and privacy tools that facilitate the creation and distribution of news and enable audiences to safely access the uncensored Internet
RIPE and the OTF
The RIPE NCC’s vision and the RIPE community charter share multiple commonalities with OTF’s work. Of note here are our shared interests in understanding the state of the Internet and using that knowledge to ensure it remains open and accessible. Given these mutual and shared commitments, respective technical expertise, and focus on developing as well as showcasing tools and resources, I hope we can develop new collaborations.
Internet Controls Fellowship Program
The call for the fellowship is open until 13 March of this year and I would like to call on individuals within the RIPE community to consider applying.
This fellowship supports individual researchers examining how governments in countries, regions, or areas of OTF’s core focus are restricting the free flow of information, cutting access to the open Internet, and implementing censorship mechanisms, thereby threatening the ability of global citizens to exercise basic human rights and democracy; work focused on mitigation of such threats is also supported.