Grants for Supporting Diverse Anti-Censorship Solutions

Donor: Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labor

Mar 14, 2022

The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) announces an open competition for organizations interested in submitting applications for grant support for nascent, developing anti-censorship platforms.

In support of the U.S. government’s policy to “promote an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet that fosters efficiency, innovation, communication, and economic prosperity, while respecting privacy and guarding against disruption, fraud, and theft,”DRL supports efforts to enable civil society actors to safely achieve access to the uncensored Internet through a diverse ecosystem of censorship-circumvention applications and platforms, with strong consideration for new and emerging systems providing innovative approaches.

Project Objectives

Online censorship has increased dramatically over the last five years. According to Freedom House’s annual Freedom on the Net report, more than two-thirds the world’s Internet users live in a country where the Internet is censored or restricted. As a result, many human rights defenders, civil society actors, and at-risk and vulnerable populations have come to rely on anti- censorship technologies to access the global Internet. The diversity and availability of platforms and applications that provide circumvention of network censorship is a crucial need, in order to continue to ensure that individuals living in repressive environments have the resources necessary to exercise their human rights online.

To support the diverse ecosystem of these critical tools, DRL is seeking proposals for multi-year, core support and innovation grants for emerging anti-censorship platforms and applications, ready for deployment and expansion to global audiences, and with reliability, security, and sufficient engineering development to enable a next phase of their implementation. The anti-censorship tool(s) should have the following attributes/capabilities:

  • A proven track record of successfully circumventing basic, non-targeted online censorship

  • An existing user-base;

  • Independently verifiable user metrics, including unique monthly users per country, made available to DRL;

  • Open-sourced components wherever viable;

  • Use of modular, open-source transport libraries, and a record of contributing improvements back to those libraries;

Preference will be given to newer projects seeking to develop the capability of responding rapidly and effectively to active attempts by governments to censor the tool/service and not tools/services that have a longstanding track record of success.

Funding Information
  • Award Ceiling: $1,000,000

  • Award Floor: $1,000,000

  • Anticipated Number of Awards: 1

  • Period of Performance: 2-3 years

  • Anticipated Time to Award, Pending Availability of Funds: 9 months

Priority Regions: Global, with a focus on Internet repressive environments.

Eligibility Criteria

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) welcomes applications in response to DRL Notices of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) from:

  • U.S.-based and foreign-based non-profit organizations/non-government organizations (NGOs);

  • Public international organizations;

  • Private, public, or state institutions of higher education; and

  • For-profit organizations or businesses. DRL’s preference is to work with non-profit entities; however, there may be occasions when a for-profit entity is best suited.

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