Announcing the Knight News Challenge Winners

Dave Steer

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Today, we are at the Knight – MIT Civic Media conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts to celebrate the winners of the Knight News Challenge. The Knight News Challenge winners are a group of 19 projects that will share $3.4 million in grants to address the diversity of issues impacting the free and open Web: from privacy and free expression to expanding the diversity of the tech workforce to improving digital access and connecting communities. They represent the best ideas from nonprofit organizations to start-up creative agencies; from Silicon Valley to London to Eastern Europe.

The Knight News Challenge sparked a conversation about how to strengthen the Internet, enabling us to tap into innovation, creativity, and substantive discussion among all stakeholders. Together with the Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation, we joined together to issue a call to the Mozilla community and beyond: Send your breakthrough ideas to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation.

Identifying these innovative projects required an innovative process and a robust discussion. Indeed, the Knight News Challenge itself is a breakthrough model, surfacing the best, most innovative approaches to addressing society’s most pressing problems.

Through the News Challenge, we unleashed creative ideas from nearly 800 builders and makers throughout the world. To identify the winners, we engaged with leading thinkers at the intersection of open Web advocacy, journalism, and technology. Indeed, the competition created a robust discussion about what’s needed to protect the Internet.

We are at a pivotal moment for the Web. Threats to the Web’s openness and accessibility are intensifying. From governments using the Web to engage in mass surveillance to policies that undermine the accessibility of the Web, we are faced with unique challenges. Will the Web remain a shared, global resource that is accessible to all? How will people throughout the world be able to express themselves safely and securely?

What’s clear is that answering these questions will require a substantive, inclusive discussion. And it will require the innovation and forward thinking of people everywhere. Let us all celebrate the winners of the Knight News Challenge and look to how their projects advance and protect the free and open Web.

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Knight News Challenge — Winning Projects

Check Out the Internet from New York Public Library: bridging the digital divide by allowing New York residents with limited broadband access to borrow portable Wi-Fi hotspot devices for up to a year.

Code2040: ensuring the future of the Internet as a diverse, inclusive public resource by opening more pathways for underrepresented minorities to top jobs in technology and bolstering professional support networks to sustain their success.

Getting It Right on Rights from Digital Public Library of America: creating a simplified and more coherent rights structure for content collections from libraries, museums, archives and other sources, along with best practices that institutions can use to safely make more content available to the public.

Global Censorship Measurement from the Open Technology Institute at New America: working in support of Measurement Lab, a collaboration and research platform that hosts a suite of tools for assessing the openness of the Internet.

Internet to Go from Chicago Public Library: offering Chicago residents Wi-Fi hotspots for up to three weeks at a time, in addition to one-on-one digital literacy and skills coaching and access to online tutorials.

OnlineCensorship.org from Electronic Frontier Foundation: collecting information about online censorship incidents to explore concerns about censorship and preserve freedom of expression.

Ranking Digital Rights from New America Foundation: developing a system for benchmarking and ranking the world’s most powerful tech companies on how well they protect the free expression and privacy of users.

Text Secure from Open Whisper Systems: safeguarding mobile text communication though a simple, secure messaging application that requires no special knowledge from the user.

Who Are the Gatekeepers? from Asociatia Actori Europeni: examining the gatekeepers of Eastern Europe’s digital infrastructure, by analyzing the ownership and connections of Internet service providers and cable and satellite operators.

The 10 Prototype Fund winners include:

Anti-censorship Alert System by Center for Rights(Boston; project lead: Tiffiny Cheng @fightfortheftr) allowing the public to see a blocked website by launching a series of tools, including an index and shareable website widgets, that enable the distribution and decentralization needed to provide local access to proxies and mirrored versions of the sites.

Breedrs by Swell Creative Group (Los Angeles; project lead: Phillip Holmes @phillipholmesis): creating a platform for parents so they can better understand the apps, games and technology that kids buy, use and learn with.

CertiDig by University of Kansas (Lawrence, Kansas; project lead: Michael Williams @mikewms, @KUJournalism):providing a seamless, secure method for authenticating information and data sources online while maintaining the privacy of the identity of sender and receiver.

Checkdesk by Meedan (San Francisco; project lead: Tom Trewinnard @tom_el_rumi @meedan, @checkdesk): helping journalists quickly verify the accuracy of online media–whether it’s a video, photo or a tweet through a digital tool–in deadline situations.

Inquisite by Whirl-i-gig (New York; project leads: Seth Kaufman, Maria Passarotti @inquisitely): promoting collaboration among researchers on complex investigative projects across disciplines through an online hub. By combining an open sharing, visualization and publishing platform with mobile data gathering tools, researchers can use the hub to contribute media and data, and share projects.

Poking the Bear by Salak TeleSystems (Washington, D.C.; project lead: Bart Stidham @STSnet): creating a new family of tools that can detect and prove network neutrality violations even when it occurs within mobile network operator networks.

Report-a-Troll by Hollaback (New York; project lead: Emily May, @ihollaback) creating a platform where victims can safely report online harassment—including violent threats, stalking and racial epithets—and volunteers can respond.

Safe Travels Online by Tibet Action Institute (Boston; project lead: Nathan Freitas @n8fr8, @tibetaction): helping people avoid cyberattacks, malicious software and digital surveillance, by testing and improving resources that allow users to safely navigate the Internet. The resources were initially designed for high-risk communities in Asia subject to strict controls on freedom of expression and other human rights.

Swarmize by Guardian Media Group (London, UK; project lead: Matt McAlister @mattmcalister @swarmize): allowing journalists to conduct research with the help of readers by creating a platform to improve data collection, analysis and distribution of crowd research.

Threshold Future, Inc. (San Francisco; project leads:Elizabeth Stark and Mike Sofaer @starkness, @mikesofaer):making it easier for open Internet projects to find funding by creating an open Internet-themed virtual currency as a way to build a community of interested investors.

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