Rights groups win $3.4 million for strengthening Web

A wide array of 19 projects were awarded $3.4 million for protecting free expression on the Internet on Monday.

The Knight Foundation, which awarded the money as part of its news challenge, said that the groups have made gains in ensuring that the Web is protected from censorship and available for communities to access. 

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“The winning projects strengthen or defend the power of the Internet to inform communities and help innovation thrive; they help build a more inclusive, open Internet that represents diverse voices and ideas,” Knight Foundation vice president of journalism and media innovation Michael Maness said in a statement.

Among the winners was the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, which worked to develop tools for measuring the Internet’s openness. The foundation was also awarded for a separate system used to rank how well the world’s largest tech companies protect users’ privacy.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also won for its OnlineCensorship.org project, which collects and analyzes instances of censorship.

The New York Public Library was honored for a project to allow people to borrow portable Wi-Fi hotspots for up to a year.

Those and five other projects were each awarded between $200,000 and $500,000. Ten other “prototype” projects were awarded $35,000 each to support their efforts.

The challenge was launched in February as a collaboration between Knight, the Ford Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation.

“With threats to privacy, security and access to the Web intensifying, there is a real craving for a more open and trustworthy Web,” Mozilla Foundation executive director Mark Surman said. “This competition inspired hundreds of technologists, thinkers and builders to contribute ideas that will strengthen the Internet for people everywhere.”