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Neon Law

In Defense of the OTF

A free and open press is the best check against totalitarian governments because it provides truth in the face of propaganda. Since its inception in 2012, the Open Technology Fund, or OTF, has funded open-source privacy-preserving projects like Signal, Tor, and SecureDrop. Journalists have used these technologies to share and report facts in authoritarian regimes. And domestic violence victims and members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been able to find love and share their stories using OTF-sponsored applications without fear of government persecution.

The OTF has a long-standing track record of success in large part due their community-first approach that they've organically grown over the years. The trust that they've cultivated has allowed the OTF to support projects around the world, including repressive environments like China, Hong Kong, and Iran.

All of OTF's great work, unfortunately, is at risk - the Trump administration is threatening to dismantle the OTF and have already tried to fire OTF leadership and replace them with unqualified people. Additionally, people tied to the takeover want OTF to fund closed-source projects, which lack the accountability current OTF-funded projects have because there is no way to check whether or not the software has back-doors or is using cryptographically sound code. As a result, the OTF and the Trump-backed United States Agency for Global Media, or USAGM, are currently in court as OTF is attempting to prevent this takeover.

Neon Law, through the Save Internet Freedom project, assisted in drafting an amicus brief spearheaded by the law firm Goldstein Russell. The brief has already been signed by Access Now, Article 19, The App Coalition, The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, The Center for Democracy and Technology, The Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, The Committee to Protect Journalists, Electronic Forntier Foundation, Free Press, Human Rights Watch, Media Alliance, Media Democracy Fund, Mozilla Corporation, Open Technology Institute, Ranking Digital Rights, The Tor Project, and Wikimedia. The brief argues that the OTF is no longer perceived as an independent advocate for its vital projects because of what the Trump administration has recently done.

We hope the court, Congress, and all relevant parties in our government realize how great the OTF has been, and how vital it is to protect its independence so it can be a beacon for Internet freedom around the world. To learn more about what's currently happening, visit https://saveinternetfreedom.tech.

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