OTF Information Controls Fellowship Program

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The Open Technology Fund (OTF) is pleased to announce the Information Controls Fellowship Program to cultivate research, outputs, and creative collaboration on topics related to repressive Internet censorship and surveillance.

The ICFP supports 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.

Goal

The goal is to support efforts that aim to advance Internet freedom in the world’s most repressive environments. Ideally, this means they support individuals who are:

  • working on projects that will directly benefit those living in the world’s most oppressive censorship and surveillance environments; with repressive information controls.
  • located in or have direct experience with communities in the Global South;
  • come from or have direct experience with repressive censorship and surveillance environments;
  • come from or have direct experience with underrepresented and/or targeted minority groups, including those with a focus on human rights, LGBT, journalism, media, or activism.
Potential Areas of Focus
  • Development and refinement of tools and techniques to continuously monitor internet interference on a global scale
  • Investigation of information controls, security, and privacy in popular applications such as search engines, social media platforms, and instant messaging applications
  • Leveraging open data to analyze the types of information controls being carried out and what they are targeting
  • Testing creative methods and new protocols for censorship circumvention and analyzing network interference measures including all forms of Internet filtering
  • Examination of the impact of Internet censorship and use of circumvention tools
  • Experimental techniques to limit pro-government manipulation of online discussions
  • Researching emerging (state-sponsored) surveillance patterns and analysis of targeted digital threats against civil society organizations or human rights defenders, such as denial of service attacks, social engineering and phishing attacks such as malware
  • Studying the roles of machine learning and artificial intelligence in digital surveillance practices in repressive environments
  • Investigating how the traits of quantum computing implicate the realm of Internet freedom and exploring opportunities to employ this leap in computing power to evade censorship
Funding Information
  • Fellows receive a monthly stipend of $7,000 USD, along with travel and equipment stipends of up to $5,000 USD respectively (depending on fellowship length).
Duration
  • OTF fellowship contracts are 3, 6, 9 or 12 months in duration.
Things to Avoid
  • A focus on countries with minimal information controls
  • Working with a host organization you are already affiliated with
  • Testing of end-user connections that violate established ethical principles
  • Reverse engineering individual apps that are not directly used by state actors to carry out mass surveillance or targeted attacks
Eligibility Criteria
  • Applications are open to experienced researchers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines and can include students and junior to mid-career practitioners with demonstrated ability and expertise. Typically, ICFP fellows have experience in fields such as computer science, engineering, information security research, software development, social sciences, law, and data visualization, among others.
  • Individuals
    • of all ages irrespective of nationality, residency, creed, gender, or other factors, with the exception that OTF is not able to support applicants within countries where the United States has trade restrictions or export sanctions as determined by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control;
    • who demonstrate skill and ability to assist in efforts to overcome information controls;
    • who demonstrate a desire to grow their knowledge and skills through a collaborative, cross-discipline approach;
    • and who demonstrate a commitment to reach audiences outside of the research community.

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