US Offers $30 Million to Scale the Great Firewall

The US State Department is offering $30 million to fund projects fostering “freedom of expression and the free flow of information on the Internet and other connection technologies in East Asia, including China,” and in other regions, particularly the Near East. From Ars Technica:

Need to get around a Chinese government firewall? Burning to smuggle your samizdat writings past Iranian Internet censorship? Hoping to blog with impunity in Burma? Uncle Sam wants to help. The US government has a $30 million pot of money to spend on “Internet freedom” programs around the world, and it’s not afraid to make a few enemies.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year gave a major speech on Internet freedom and the new “Information Curtain” of censorship that has fallen in some parts of the world. In that speech, she said that State would support development of tools that can bypass Internet censorship. She also outlined a program in which State would fund mobile phone apps that allow people to rate government ministries on responsiveness and efficiency and that can ferret out corruption through crowdsourcing. The hardware is already in the wild, she said; all what’s needed is some money to make it worth developers’ time.

This year, State has $30 million for such projects, and it’s asking interested parties to apply for the cash. Top on its list of wants: “counter-censorship technology” that can bypass firewalls and filters. Such tools may be general (like Tor) or can be specific to individual governments. China and Iran can probably look forward to some US-funded encryption and circumvention tools coming their way in the near future.

The grants are available to nonprofit organisations and universities unaffiliated with designated terrorist organizations or, presumably, with Wikileaks.