Filecoin Group Grants $5.8 Million to Edward Snowden’s Press Freedom Foundation

By Jeff Benson

Media is a tough place these days. Journalists who report basic facts are accused of spreading “FUD,” they get hammered for perceived biases, and they must work in an Internet economy that often rewards speed over accuracy.

They also get arrested, beat up, and even killed for trying to reveal the truth. According to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, on-the-job journalist arrests increased 1200% in the U.S. in 2020, while twenty-one journalists worldwide were murdered because of their work.

The FPF is a group that seeks to protect journalists’ freedom of speech—and now it has a new way to do so, namely Web 3 tools. On Tuesday, the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW) announced it is giving FPF $5.8 million to build out its SecureDrop tool with “zero-trust architecture.”

SecureDrop is open-source software developed by FPF in 2013. It allows journalists and sources, especially whistleblowers who are at risk of arrest or violence, to communicate with one another via Tor. It’s used by The New Yorker, The Intercept, and The Washington Post, just to name a few.

Edward Snowden NFT Sells for $5.4 Million in Ethereum

If the Freedom of the Press Foundation has a familiar ring to it, that’s because its president since 2016 is the biggest whistleblower in recent memory: Edward Snowden. This year, Snowden auctioned off an NFT made out of his image and a court ruling striking down the mass surveillance of Americans’ phone calls under the Patriot Act, raising $5.4 million in Ethereum for FPF in the process.

The FFDW grant will go toward exploring improvements for the SecureDrop system and, hopefully, to make the foundation’s databases of government data and press freedom violations extra-impenetrable. For instance, the FPF maintains its own archive of news websites that have been shut down, but it would like to take the next step of publishing these on a censorship-resistant platform. And it wants to see how it can leverage the best of what blockchain has built to keep privacy tools ahead of governments.

“With this grant, by far the largest our organization has ever received, we’ll be able to speed the introduction of new upgrades and features to SecureDrop and spur its adoption worldwide,” said FPF Executive Director Trevor Timm in a press release.

This is the sort of use case Filecoin was made for. It’s a storage service run on a decentralized protocol so that people and institutions can rent out or lease space on other people’s computers. But instead of all that press data living on a reporter’s laptop down the road, Filecoin splits up files and distributes them across servers. It’s all about privacy.

“Our mission is to permanently preserve humanity’s most important information,” said FFDW board chair Marta Belcher. “FPF’s efforts are a natural fit for collaboration.”