Washington, D.C. — In response to escalating attacks on internet freedom worldwide, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) has launched a new independent grantee, the Open Technology Fund (OTF). OTF will fund the development and distribution of cutting edge technologies and techniques to counter efforts by repressive regimes and closed societies, such as Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea, to block access to objective news and information. Such technologies are necessary to ensure foreign audiences have access to content from USAGM’s five networks and other sources via the global internet.
“From China to Iran, an increasing number of malicious actors and governments have seized on the internet as the next frontier to suppress unbiased news and information and manipulate average citizens,” said USAGM CEO Grant Turner. “As an independent grantee, OTF will provide USAGM journalists and their audiences with the tools they need to circumvent these bad actors and access a free and open internet.”
Originally a program under Radio Free Asia, a USAGM network, OTF pioneered support for the research, development and implementation of cutting-edge internet freedom technologies to respond to rapidly evolving censorship threats. As a result of these investments, OTF-supported technology is used by more than two billion people every day around the world.
The new grantee will be led by CEO Libby Liu, formerly President of RFA, and President Laura Cunningham, formerly Principal Director of the OTF program.
“As authoritarian states worldwide increasingly attempt to control what their citizens read, write, and even share online, this next stage in OTF’s growth could not come at a more crucial time,” said OTF CEO Libby Liu. “I’m excited to lead OTF into this new phase of the program’s growth – building off our successes to date while further serving the needs of people in repressive societies who rely on the internet as a vital information lifeline.”
“The internet has become a vital information lifeline for over three billion people worldwide, but for many, this lifeline is being severed,” said USAGM Board Chairman Ken Weinstein. “In this moment, the United States must protect the internet as a shared, democratic space for free expression and the exchange of ideas across national boundaries.”
As a newly-formed, independent 501(c)3 grantee of USAGM, OTF now is charged with promoting the importance of internet freedom and implementing USAGM’s internet freedom programs with the increased flexibility, speed and due diligence needed to empower innovation and compete against oppressors. This includes increasing long-term support for tested internet freedom tools while expanding funding for innovative, next-generation solutions to ensure that users have the tools they need to safely access the uncensored internet today and in the future.
USAGM oversees the independent, public service journalism of our five networks—the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting—which together reach a measured weekly audience of more than 350 million people in 61 languages across more than 100 countries.
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