June 25 2020 GM
Topic of Discussion: Save Internet Freedom
The current administration in the United States is threatening to dismantle the Open Technology Fund - the most effective tool Congress has in the fight to safeguard the internet as a secure democratic space. Michael Pack, the new CEO of the USAGM fired all heads of the organizations that are under the umbrella of the agency, including the Boards of Directors.
The Internet Freedom Community is pushing the campaign Save Internet Freedom, where we call all organizations to sign the letter that we are sending to the Congress of the US, and we ping congress members and representatives.
- The OTF letter is being translated and we are looking for volunteers that can translate to Russian, Persian, Simplified Chinese, and Bahasa Indonesia. https://saveinternetfreedom.tech/letters/
- The situation is clear and is leading to a big crisis. What safeguards can we work toward as a community so that the future of the internet is protected? Must we rely on the ethical value of institutions and their leaders of the day? We need to start finding creative ways to support each other and also our communities. There are many people doing this including in the funder community. In the longer, big-picture, there needs to be more pressure on other funders to support IF work. Many of us rely solely on OTF and that is not healthy. It's not OTF's fault that they occupy so much of this space, but that other funders should've stepped up their game long ago. OTF always encourages projects to seek out diverse funding, after a project is mature.
- The OTF has been innovative and supported projects that may not normally fit traditional funders. The risks in the Internet Freedom community are sometimes tied to governments which other funders may avoid. It is a challenging time and also a wake up call for us to imagine what a citizen led fund might look like.
- We are seeing this crisis as an opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of internet open technologies and have a broader impact. It is having that rippling effect because so many of us have been mobilized. This is also an opportunity to use this messaging to get more support for the local grassroot organizations that are actually defending this in various countries.
- When we talk about the reason why Michael Pack is the new CEO of the USAGM and his decisions, we need to think big. This is part of a larger problem. The Trump admin is transforming what used to be a bipartisan tool - USAGM, the US government global news agency - into a tool for the administrations. This move threatens journalism and the integrity of news, because USAGM broadcasters are trusted across the globe. Radio Free Asia, Radio Marti, and others are a trusted news source for folks living in repressive environments. They are some of the many entities under USAGM. It's important to stress that they fired leadership that were career experts, some with multiple Pulitzer prizes, and the boards, and replaced them with loyalists that have NO expertise. This includes the OTF leadership. Even Rick Scott signed on to the Senate bill. He cites lack of information coming out of China as a health risk which is pretty rich coming from someone who stole money from healthcare funds and represents a state that fired a data scientist for accurate pandemic numbers.
- We discussed how to explain to non-technical people what is going on and why is so important. We need to show them that all communication happens online. Now with COVID19, this is happening even more. Everyone needs spaces where we can communicate, private, securely without interference. Also, a good teaser is saying that these tools protect dissidents and journalists. If they are not supported ,those folks around the world are at risk. Another good starting place is showing OTF’s success with numbers. Over 2 billion people use OTF-supported technology, and more than two-thirds of all mobile users globally have technology incubated by OTF on their device. OTF protects people who leak important stories. Public health experts are getting harassed because of their work on COVID-19. Tech that keeps them safe and gets their work past censorship can save lives during misinfodemics.