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Program Update

May 2018 Monthly Report

In May, 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 where the free flow of information is curtailed. During the past month, OTF continued reviewing and responding to the 135 concept notes received during the May 1 round, which requested a total of more than $20 million. OTF also posted an RFP to expand the services offered by the Rapid Response Fund, with a deadline of June 15th.

Notable accomplishments

  • The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)’s censorship detection app, OONI Probe, was run 246,655 times from 4,739 different vantage points in 209 countries around the world in the month of May. OONI also established a new partnership with Nigerian NGO Paradigm Initiative, helping expand OONI’s Internet disruption testing network in the country. OONI data was also cited in several reports, including one by Malaysia’s Sinar Project covering Internet censorship during the country’s general elections and another by Strathmore University of Kenya analyzing Internet disruptions in Africa over the past five years.

  • WeChatScope, a platform that collects and visualizes censored messages on WeChat’s public accounts, made improvements to its data collection mechanisms, increasing the number of WeChat accounts and articles being tracked. WeChatScope is now following 1,500 accounts and collecting 2,500 articles on a daily basis. The platform now categorizes accounts into categories (such as media, personal, or government) in order to improve analysis capabilities and detect trends. You can follow WeChatScope here.

  • Tails completed integration of support for open-source disk encryption software VeraCrypt in the GNOME user interface, making it easier to integrate the Tails operating system into workflows with other users and operating systems.

  • DNS Privacy shared initial results of some performance measurement testing focused on experimenting with benchmarking DNS-over-TLS servers, a proposed way of encrypting DNS traffic (which is otherwise transferred unencrypted). Those test results can be found here.

  • For his Sub-Saharan Africa Cyber Threat Modeling project, Arthur Gwagwa conducted background research on Ethiopia, gathering baseline data to inform a report focused on information controls in the country. That contextual analysis is summarized in a blog post published here.

  • Decentralized peer-to-peer content delivery protocol NewNode has a new Telegram community group, which can be joined here. In May, NewNode also pushed ten new releases.

  • ICFP fellow Sergei Hovyadinov’s report analyzing how four major Russian telecom companies (MTS, Megafon, Beeline and Tele2) handle user privacy and information access issues, including how websites are blocked or filtered by each ISP, is now available in English here. The original version in Russian is available here.

  • The third cohort of OTF’s Information Controls Fellowship Program completed their work as fellows, with a recap posted summarizing the fellows’ work and their accomplishments. The six fellows worked on projects including developing Snowflake, a new circumvention-enabling pluggable transport (Serene Han), investigating malware targeting civil society groups (Geoffrey Alexander), and monitoring bots and sockpuppets employed around Ecuador’s 2017 presidential election (Daniel Riofrio). Read about all the fellows and their work here.

  • The Usability Lab’s Ura Design completed work on a new style guide for Reproducible Builds, which which enable anyone to verify that a given binary is made from the source it is claimed to be made from, by allowing anyone to create bit-by-bit identical binaries. The live style guide can be found here and is hosted on Debian infrastructure here.

  • In May, Localization Lab provided translations into 21 languages for the latest release of Onion Browser (v. 2.1.0), a Thai translation for the latest release of Lantern, translations of Tigrinya, Amharic and Afaan Oromoo in support of Ethiopian users for the new Android and Windows versions of Psiphon 3, while also coordinating the translation and review of a new version of secure news reader, Courier, into 16 languages.

  • A summary of OTF’s supported audit of the ‘Jingwang’ app, a state-run surveillance tool whose use by Uyghur residents in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) is mandated by the Chinese government, is now available in Chinese thanks to the translation efforts of @j3meng and “peppa pig.” Read the Chinese version here.

    Select news collected by OTF from the month of May 2018 - Get the full feed live @OpenTechFund or sign up to receive our daily newsletter.

    China is exporting facial recognition software to Africa, expanding its vast database | Quartz
    Artificial intelligence takes jobs from Chinese web censors | Financial Times
    Apple Begins Removing CallKit Apps From Chinese App Store | Gizmodo
    Protesters demand Russia stop blocking Telegram messenger app | Reuters
    Thai Government to Build ‘Cyber Warrior’ Army to Monitor Netizens | Khao Sod
    Despite ban, Iranians stay on Telegram via circumvention tools | Radio Farda
    Russian Censor Gets Help From Amazon and Google | Bloomberg
    Google and Amazon’s move to block domain fronting will hurt activists under repressive regimes | QZ
    Russia’s federal censor blocks 50 Internet anonymizers and VPNs | Meduza
    Peppa Pig, Unlikely Rebel Icon, Faces Purge in China | New York Times

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