Authoritarian governments, including Russia and the People’s Republic of China, use information technology to repress, surveil, and manipulate domestic and foreign populations. It is more important than ever for us to present an affirmative vision of the digital world.
Promoting internet freedom around the world has been a longstanding bipartisan national security priority in the United States. In a new Lincoln Policy report, The Open Technology Fund: Strengthening U.S. Capacity to Counter Digital Authoritarianism, Dan Lips and Deepesh Chaudhari analyze one of the U.S. government’s most promising initiatives to advance global freedom.
Since 2012, the Open Technology Fund (OTF), a non-profit organization supported by the U.S. Agency for Global Media, has incubated censorship-circumvention technologies that promote free speech and internet freedom.
Over the past decade, OTF’s projects have created some of the widest-used security tools on the planet, utilized by billions of people. They include Signal, a secure messaging and communications application widely used around the globe to protect the integrity of personal communications.
But the OTF could easily expand its research and impact. OTF has vetted more than 3,500 requests for support totaling more than $450 million. This is 400 percent more than OTF’s funding capacity over that period.
In FY2022, the Open Technology Fund is slated to receive $27 million from Congress. Leveraging growing bipartisan support, Congress should strengthen the OTF to leverage its incredibly successful work by increasing its appropriations, thus bolstering Internet freedom, security, and freedom of speech at a time of growing digital authoritarianism.