We are approaching a critical juncture in global internet governance and technology policy, in which decisions made in the next few years about our communications networks will have long-lasting effects on the right to free expression and privacy.
Low- and middle-income country governments are, with increasing speed, adopting domestic regulation of digital communications networks, often enshrining curtailments of basic freedoms into law. Driven by the agendas of intellectual property enforcement, cybersecurity and curbing child pornography, Western standards are increasingly coming into conflict with human rights norms. Changes in global governance of the internet are likely in the next years, with repressive regimes like Russia and China gaining in influence. Also, across the world, the governance of digital networks is increasingly carried out by private-sector arrangements often without respect for the principle of due process.
The Freedom of Communication Initiative’s goal is to advance policies that protect free expression, privacy and due process in the new communications environment. In 2013, the thematic priorities for this Initiative include:
- Privatization of law enforcement: Agreements between private parties (for example between ISPs and copyright holders) are increasingly encroaching upon free speech and privacy online. These private entities are not generally subject to the same constitutional restrictions as traditional governments and do not have the same obligations of disclosure, transparency, and public accountability. The initiative will support engagement with companies for better transparency but also include support to document, analyze and litigate these private agreements and practices where they violate human rights norms.
- Protection of privacy in an age of ubiquitous surveillance: Computational advancements, business models built on data capture, and direct government access to data held by companies providing communications and "cloud" services are conspiring to move day-to-day internet use toward an environment of routine and pervasive surveillance. Interventions by the initiative include support for efforts to document the trade of surveillance technologies by Western companies to repressive regimes and support for a campaign advocating for an export control regime over these technologies.
This component of the Information Program will support policy analysis, advocacy and litigation. We will not support academic research unless it is directly connected to a strategic opportunity for policy reform. Many of the projects we support will be global in scope, but we will also fund projects targeting Europe and influential governments in the Global South. We will not fund advocacy targeting U.S. domestic policies.
The Freedom of Communication Initiative will consider applications from new partners in line with the above stated priorities. If you are considering applying for funding under this initiative, please send a one-page concept paper to firstname.lastname@example.org. The paper should include the following information:
- A brief description of the project goals and planned activities.
- Information about the applicant organization and project partners.
- An idea of how much your project will cost.
The Freedom of Communication Initiative has a full program of work for 2013. We are open to applications for projects from new partners; however please keep in mind that we are able to only fund a limited number of the many applications we receive. We endeavor to respond to applications for funds which meet the criteria specified within two months.