Internews' Global Internet Policy Program aims to build and support local human rights organizations around the globe to engage directly with governments, private organizations, and academics on freedom of expression issues online and offline. For twenty years, Internews has supported more than 85 grassroots organizations in over 40 countries. Across the globe, we are supporting exchanges among advocates, fellowships for digital rights defenders at tech companies and global organizations, and robust rights-based digital rights curricula. With this support, our partners are now leading voices for digital rights in their respective countries.

...the first validation we got from outside [of Nigeria] was from Internews, saying ‘we believe in your work, yes here is [a subgrant] go set up an office [in Abuja]’… and there wasn’t [a culture of] looking over our shoulders, checking to see what we were doing. Of course there was proper accounting works, but the validation was important… We were doing something that was new on the continent, that wasn’t popular. People were asking questions like, ‘why are you not focusing on HIV/AIDS or like other kinds of problems?’ But we knew that this [digital rights] was a matter of life or death eventually.
— 'Gbénga Sèsan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative

Empowering local voices

Internews has applied a partner-centered approach to our work since we joined the digital rights space in 1999. The challenges that internet users face around the world are both diverse and rapidly evolving. This necessitates a diversified approach to confront them. Our programs leverage existing knowledge and skills in the field to ensure that the advocacy efforts we support are better informed of, and more tailored to, the communities in which we work. We support local partners that range from individuals and academics seeking to have a seat at the table to well-established civil society organizations (CSOs).

building networks

As we strengthen grassroots organizations' advocacy strategies, we connect local advocates to regional and global internet freedom communities. These links help ensure that they have a platform to engage with relevant actors and a mechanism to amplify their voices in those spheres. We support the establishment of local, regional and international networks that convene civil society organizations, the private sector, and government officials around digital rights issues. We hold annual partners' meetings in which we conduct coalition-building exercises to encourage the exchange of information and best practices among program partners. In addition, we create spaces for closed door discussions between leading activists and key representatives from governments, technology, and communication companies in their region.

Supporting Advocacy and Outreach

To bolster a robust advocacy environment in which advocates can make lasting changes in the digital rights space, our team supports the research, awareness raising, and advocacy projects that contribute to an open and informed debate. Since its inception, Internews' internet policy program has supported innovative and critical research on topics ranging from data protection in Chile to gender-based violence online in Nepal. With financial and organizational support from Internews' projects, our partners have advocated for an open and accessible internet around the globe, bringing digital rights issues into the fore in communities that previously took the service for granted. Our team seeks to promote the acceptance of digital rights as a fundamental human right.

Encouraging human-centered design

Our programs capitalize on local knowledge and expertise, not only by forging partnerships with community-based organizations, but by ensuring that our projects are also community-led. By allowing partners the freedom to design their own strategies while agreeing upon a clear and established mission, Internews' funding encourages innovation by avoiding an overly generalized or unnecessarily prescriptive approach to advocacy work. 


“Being able to hire a staff lawyer, being involved in court hearings, going to court, meeting with policymakers, was all made possible through [Internews].”
— Bolo Bhi, Pakistan

With our support...

  • Paradigm Initiative successfully advocated against the 2015 Nigeria Cybercrime Act and drafted a new digital rights bill that was just passed into law. 
  • TEDIC led a successful online awareness raising and advocacy campaign to stop the implementation of a data retention bill in Paraguay. They are now building on this success with a campaign for a data protection bill that uses unique cultural reference points (“pyrawebs”) in combination with fun and creative visuals.
  • The Software Freedom Law Center ( created a database that tracks and reports on pervasive internet shutdowns in India. 
  • Red en Denfensa de los Derechos Digitales (R3D) published landmark research that highlighted the Mexican government's illegal use of spyware. This revelation was featured in newspapers around the world, including the New York Times.