The Information Controls Fellowship Program (ICFP) from the Open Technology Fund (OTF) fosters research, outputs, and creative collaboration on repressive Internet censorship and surveillance issues. The program supports examination into 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, threatening global citizens’ ability to exercise basic human rights and democracy; work focused on mitigating such threats is also encouraged. The application is available on the OTF website.
Deadline: February 23, 2024
Stage 1: Submit a concept note via OTF’s online application system.
Stage 2: Applicants whose proposed solutions are deemed highly competitive will be invited to submit a full proposal via OTF’s online application system.
- Three, six, nine, or twelve-month fellowships available
- Monthly stipend of $7,000 USD
- Travel and equipment stipends of up to $5,000 USD respectively, depending on the fellowship length
- Funding awards are performance-based contracts signed directly with the applicant. Funding is dispersed upon completion of stated objectives, activities, and deliverables per a schedule outlined in the contract. All payments are made in U.S. dollars and will comply with local laws, regulations, and ethics rules.
Applications are open to people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines and can include students and junior to mid-career practitioners. While applicants from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply, likely candidates include computer scientists, engineers, information security researchers, software developers, social scientists (e.g., comparative politics; international security), lawyers and law students, data visualization designers, and others. To get a better sense of the ICFP community, you can read more about fellows from round one, round two, round three, round four, round five, round six, round seven, round eight, and round nine.
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.
ICFP at The Citizen Lab
The Citizen Lab co-founded the program with OTF and has been a host organization since its inception. We welcome proposals from fellowship candidates for research projects related to our current thematic areas described below:
Freedom of Expression Online
Information is censored and disrupted by state actors and private companies at the network layer (e.g., network shutdowns, network throttling, Internet filtering, etc.) and the application layer (e.g., content filtering and moderation, government requests for content removal, etc).
Research Objectives: Develop methods for identifying how content is restricted at the technical level, and conduct policy and legal analyses to understand the underlying political economy around the practice and policy of these controls. Evaluate how these information controls impact freedom of expression and other rights.
PAST ICFP PROJECTS
- Network measurement methods for locating and examining censorship devices
- “Voices from the Island”: Informational annexation of Crimea and transformations of journalistic practices
- You Move, They Follow Uncovering Iran’s Mobile Legal Intercept System
Targeted Digital Threats against Civil Society
Digital espionage enabled by phishing, malware, disinformation campaigns, and other threat vectors poses a persistent threat to global civil society. Civil society does not have the same level of resources as governments and the private sector to defend against these threats.
Research Objectives: Document digital threats against civil society groups across regions and communities. Identify technical trends in how groups are targeted. Understand the political context in which these threats are happening and the impact they have on groups and social movements. Evaluate the efficacy of mitigation strategies available to civil society.
PAST ICFP PROJECTS
- Familiar Feeling: A Malware Campaign Targeting the Tibetan Diaspora Resurfaces
- Champing at the Cyberbit: Ethiopian Dissidents Targeted with New Commercial Spyware
- Insider Information: An intrusion campaign targeting Chinese language news sites
Mobile App Privacy and Security
Mobile applications have become a central means for civil society to communicate, organize, and mobilize. Applications that have amassed huge user populations in some regions of the world remain largely understudied by security researchers leaving users with limited information on their relative privacy and security.
Research Objectives: Evaluate security and privacy issues in mobile applications with high user bases in communities of interest that have received minimal research attention. When applicable, outreach to companies to present concerns around security and privacy vulnerabilities. Present findings in accessible ways to help users make informed decisions about the tools they use.
PAST ICFP PROJECTS
- Mobile security vulnerabilities threaten millions in Latin America
- Privacy and Security Analysis of the IATA Travel Pass Android App
- TikTok vs Douyin: A Security and Privacy Analysis
- Safer Without: Korean Child Monitoring and Filtering Apps
Legal, Policy, and Technical Research
Apart from these research areas, we encourage applicants to propose projects that are within the following broad areas (or combinations of the two):
- Legal and Policy Research: Evaluation of laws, policies, and norms related to Internet censorship and surveillance.
- Technical Research: Empirically document technologies and technical practices affecting openness, privacy, and security. This area can include: research and development of software tools, analysis of systems for Internet censorship and surveillance, and data analytics and visualization.