Digital Whistleblowing Fund

Posted in News at 29.08.2017

Digital Whistleblowing Fund

Whistleblowing can be a powerful ethical and social tool.

Digital Whistleblowing can be even more efficient in bringing social justice, if properly used by public interest stakeholders such as activists and investigative journalists.

Hermes Center want to establish a Digital Whistleblowing Fund that provides support to those willing to start projects that actively engage in solicitation of whistleblowers to disclose malpractices against the public interest, then taking action on it.

We run the GlobaLeaks open source whistleblowing project since 2012, at the time defined as “the napster of whistleblowing”, with the goal to see the growth of thousands of whistleblowing platforms.

Since then we’ve supported hundreds of organization in the setup of digital whistleblowing projects run by investigative journalism groups, activists, anti-corruption groups, media activists, public agencies and private corporations.

Most of the people we’ve supported represent grassroots organization which are often underfunded and lack the required specific and mixed set of skills required to successfully run a whistleblowing initiative.

We are opening the call to find partners to implement a fund that would enable investigative journalism groups and activism grassroots organisations to apply to receive financial, operational and strategic support in starting a digital whistleblowing initiative, as part of their social mission.

We want to see digital whistleblowing being used more and more for defending human rights, the environment, civil rights activism, electoral integrity monitoring or for permanent watchdog initiatives as investigative journalism groups or independent media in specific countries and/or sectors.

We are already providing this kind of support pro-bono to many organisations, but we are limited by the lack of resources and this approach just doesn’t scale.

In order to see much more digital whistleblowing projects, it would be very important to make a grant program that can provide financing (also micro financing in terms of a few thousand euro) and services ((strategic, organizational, communication, legal, IT, security) for organisations that wish to deploy a digital whistleblowing initiative for public interests purposes.

We foresee the implementation of a grant program where it’s possible to apply for funding by specifically filling up a form and qualifying the project concept that the organization wish to setup.

A selection committee composed of key individuals/organization from the whistleblowing, journalism, activism, anti-corruption and hacking ecosystems would evaluate the received applications.

Eligibility criteria and selection guidelines must be defined and written, in order to stick to the nonprofit and public interests purposes.

All projects selected would get a set of services to assist them in the setup, along with a financial aid with small grants. The structure of services portfolio to be provided, along with small financial grants, for successful whistleblowing iniziative has been analysed in Whistleblowing Everywhere project in 2015.

The Digital Whistleblowing Fund will run periodically thematic calls, also depending on the contribution of the specific funders, such as “Anti-corruption Activism” or “Environmental Digital Whistleblowing Activism” or “Human Rights Digital Whistleblowing Activism” or “Investigative Journalism in Asia” and so on.

The organization will be funded by a variety of funders in order to provide differentiation and sustainability.

The funders themselves would be actively engaged in raising funds from others for “thematic calls”, in order to apply digital whistleblowing activism techniques in the specific social areas they cover.

Just as example international organizations such as Transparency International could offer to its national chapter the ability to setup it’s ALAC in a digital way, the very same could be done by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to provide safe first contact methods to its members.

Hermes Center already partnered for this project with Renewable Freedom Foundation (RFF) that will take case of the administration of the Grant Program, either financially, either for the workflows and business process handling, thanks to Grant Management Software “polly” that has been developed exactly for that purpose.

RFF already take care of administration of the European Digital Rights Fund, that provide small grants between €2.000 and €5.000 euro, it’s financially backed by Open Society Foundation (OSF) but with direct involvement of European Digital Rights (EDRi) for the selection of projects.

We recently saw KimDotcom to actively advise his intention to raise funds to enable many whistleblower sites to startup, it seems like a similar idea 🙂

If any of you reading this concept of a Digital Whistleblowing Fund is interested, please don’t hesitate to contact us at projects@hermescenter.org to get involved and make it happen!

We want to build a first group of very committed key persons and organization, build up the communication tools, some rules, starts fundraising quickly, to make a project like ready for a first run! 🙂