OSLO, NORWAY (February 22, 2022) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is excited to announce the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) Hackathon: Internet Shutdowns, a competition in which students in Norway will develop unique techniques and tools to maintain digital communication during internet shutdowns taking place in countries under authoritarian rule.
Authoritarian regimes around the world, including those in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Venezuela, are curtailing internet access to strategically hide repression, muzzle criticism, prevent peaceful assembly, impede public communications, and prevent information about human rights violations from being disseminated outside of their borders. This shields their actions from the outside world, controlling countries’ and citizens’ narratives alike, and preventing opposition to their rule from spreading beyond their reach.
Internet shutdowns can take on a variety of forms, including rendering the Internet inaccessible or blocking certain platforms. This phenomenon has been occurring at an exponential rate across countries under authoritarian rule, most often amid election cycles, protests, and periods of political instability, and is often accompanied by heightened state repression, military offensives, and violence. On-the-ground, when access to the Internet is denied, protesters and activists often find themselves cut off from essential coordination tools, such as messaging apps, alert systems, and crowdsourced protest maps. They are prevented from communicating with one another or with the outside world, organizing peaceful protests, or accessing vital information.
With cases of internet shutdowns around the world rising, the 2022 OFF Hackathon will identify alternative means of bypassing government-instigated internet shutdowns, and ensure that Internet access is achieved globally. Competitors will be advised by Hackathon judges, activists, and technologists, who will share pain points about authoritarian regimes’ tactics of censorship and repression, advise on the technological credibility of projects, and ensure that the teams create impactful solutions.
During the 2022 OFF Hackathon, competitors will be invited to pitch their projects virtually for the chance to win a 50,000 NOK cash prize, an exclusive networking opportunity, and All-Access tickets to the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum on May 23-25 in Oslo, Norway. All participants will receive student daypasses, which provide access to daytime programming.
An open and inclusive internet, access to information, and freedom of expression are central to fostering democracy. The 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum Hackathon will champion exciting new ways to circumvent government-instigated shutdowns and the great minds who develop these solutions.