Access’ 2014 Knight News Challenge proposals

The Knight Foundation’s 2014 Knight News Challenge asks the question: “How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression, and innovation?”

In response, the Access team has put forward a number of proposals that we believe will help ensure an internet that is free, open, and more secure. All of our submissions can be found here, but we’ve whipped up a quick summary of each submission can be found below.


Ash Dworf: Cheap and easy monitoring against threats

Journalists and human right defenders are increasingly distributed, global, and technical — and under attack from all sides. It’s essential that they have the ability to investigate, research, and report securely and safely. We’re developing the capacity of an Ash Dworf — a very small and inexpensive “plug-and-play” device — to act as a firewall and Intrusion Protection System (IPS). Organizations can distribute them to their journalists and staff to sit between the computer and internet and help watch for suspicious traffic, allowing technical security staff to respond quickly as issues arise. This will help protect the ability of journalists and human rights defenders to work even in the most hostile environments.

Read our Knight Challenge proposal here.


Building an EU response to mass surveillance

Wherever privacy is at risk, there is a chilling effect on freedom of expression. Mass surveillance programs from the NSA, GCHQ, and other intelligence agencies are acutely limiting the openness of our communications online. The United States has seen successful efforts to reform these programs, but the response in the EU has been limited. EU civil society needs support to mobilize public interest and demand the restoration of our rights. We want to bridge the gap between EU organisations responding to mass surveillance, including changes in the public and private sectors and promoting best practices for users.

Read our Knight Challenge proposal here.


ToolAdvisor: Providing an easy to understand guide to digital security tools

Journalists, civil society organizations, activists, and digital rights defenders all over the world increasingly face dangers online. They may realize they need to protect themselves, their sources, and their networks, but often don’t know which tools best suit their needs, and how to find help and resources for using these tools. We want to improve the collective security of the open internet and at-risk individuals through ToolAdvisor, a simple interactive online guide, leveraging prior work from Open Integrity Index’s Information Innovation Lab and Access. ToolAdvisor will provide clear recommendations and up-to-date resources for digital security tools and practices.

Read our Knight Challenge proposal here.


Benchmarking telco respect for user rights

Mobile penetration rates are approaching 100% around the world. Mobile providers hold enormous power over how users access the internet and exercise their freedom of expression, but there are no global standards on how telcos protect the open internet, protect their users against human rights violations, or respond when those rights are violated. We are working on a set of benchmarks to measure how telcos are addressing these challenges, in their own operations and in the real-world, to help set global standards that shareholders and other stakeholders use to advocate for corporate respect for human rights, and ensure the internet remains open users everywhere.

Read our Knight Challenge proposal here.



Access’ RightsCon conference series is a major event for open dialogue between key global stakeholders invested in maintaining a free and open internet. At RightsCon Silicon Valley, more than 700 top human rights experts, corporate leaders, government representatives, and front-line activists from more than 65 countries launched or developed more than 100 different proposals for next steps to keep the internet open and secure. Next year, RightsCon is headed to Southeast Asia in March 2015 to convene and strategize around digital rights in the region. Previous RightsCon events were bolstered by the participation of grassroots activists, journalists, bloggers and citizen media producers. Support from the Knight Foundation will help provide a platform for direct exchange and collaboration by all stakeholders.

Read our Knight Challenge proposal here.


Ending network discrimination and censorship in Europe project

The European internet is under siege by major incumbent ISPs and telcos that want to prevent Net Neutrality and enshrine ‘network discrimination’ This means heavy tolls for users, an end to innovation, and the violation of our rights to free expression and information. Net Neutrality is the principle that preserves the very essence of the internet, protecting us from discrimination by companies or governments for what we say and share online. We want to guarantee freedom of expression online in Europe by mobilizing citizens and policymakers to end network discrimination and censorship in the E.U. We know European policy is often a model for the world: protecting the net in Brussels will help protect it from Brasilia to Abuja.

Read our Knight Challenge proposal here.


Responsive advocacy: Evidence-driven advocacy and campaigning

We want to reduce turnaround times for identifying violations of online rights, document them in irrefutable detail, amplify existing advocacy networks, and provide original coverage of digital rights issues worldwide. We propose a ‘responsive advocacy’ project to investigate and document technical evidence of censorship and surveillance, raise awareness with communities, and escalate issues to global media and policymakers. This includes working with local groups to do original investigation and analysis, do original reporting, campaign on proposed reforms to our global membership; advocate solutions with policymakers around the world, all in order to shift media narratives and draw attention and resources to the global struggle for the free and open internet.

Read our Knight Challenge proposal here.


Data Security Action Plan: Raising the bar on security across the internet

The Data Security Action Plan is seven security-enhancing steps every internet platform should take to safeguard data and ensure a stronger internet, because without security, free expression and the open internet are at risk. Raising barriers to prevent unauthorized surveillance is the first step in returning the internet to its status as the centerpiece of a free and open society. We’re using the Data Security Action Plan to promote a culture shift for online services: if you collect personal information, you must protect it. The Action Plan will set out to educate the public and our lawmakers on the importance of encryption technologies and how to use them, in order to keep the internet an “open, equitable platform for free expression, commerce and learning.”

Read our Knight Challenge proposal here.


Visualizing internet policy

Informed participation in the global internet governance process is critical to protecting the free and open internet for all people. But the complex processes, and a vast amount of information about them, is a barrier to that participation particularly in developing countries. We want to develop an interactive, crowdsourced visualization of these policies and processes, to help ensure users from around the world have the opportunity to meaningfully participate in internet policymaking in order to ensure their fundamental human rights are respected online. We will work with a network of partner organizations to identify essential information and develop interactive tools, serving as bridge connecting communities of researchers and developers.

Read our Knight Challenge proposal here.