The Digital Trust Foundation is seeking grant proposals around digital abuse. As the Request for Proposals (RFP) states, "The Foundation has found several gaps in digital abuse research and action" and is addressing that concern by seeking to fund "empirical research to understand the prevalence of various forms of digital abuse," as well as "implementation and evaluation of digital abuse prevention strategies."
The Foundation will also fund organizations that provide direct services to victims and projects that contribute to the digital abuse policy debate. The RFP and other supporting materials are available on the Foundation's website. The deadline for submitting a proposal is 11:59 PM PT on May 7, 2015.
Grants will range from between $50,000 and $200,000, although exceptional projects outside that range will be considered. Non-profits, universities, private companies, and individuals are eligible to apply.
There are three funding categories: research, prevention and support. Here is a brief summary, but please see the RFP for more detail.
The grant program is quite timely considering what is going on today. The recent conviction of Kevin Bollart for operating two "revenge porn" sites is but one of many recent examples of how some have used digital technology to abuse others. There are also numerous cases of online harassment on Twitter and other social networks. Young women are particularly vulnerable, but men and women of all ages have been affected. Even domestic violence and dating abuse now have their digital components. And, while most online young people are respectful of others, there are certainly cases of cyberbullying.
What is needed are prevention and support strategies that are based on the latest and most credible research that address the emerging problems. We also need more research to better understand the prevalence and impact of different types of digital abuse and how to address the problems effectively. The last things I think we need is exaggeration, "moral panics" and overly restrictive policies, nor do we need to violate Internet users' right to free expression. We do need to develop some rational and research-based understanding and responses to the real issues that confront online
The Foundation is interested in projects that examine the prevalence of cyberbullying, cyberstalking, or digital domestic violence and is especially interested in those that compare digital abuse prevalence across age groups, including both youth and adults. Proposals that fill a research gap may be prioritized, which is especially important regarding cyberbullying of youth, as a lot of research on that topic has already been conducted.
The Foundation expects to fund several projects with diverse budgets up to $100,000 that will both implement and evaluate an "evidence-based digital abuse prevention program." The projects can test new prevention strategies, but proposals must include a theory of change or evidence base to support the proposed strategies.
The Foundation is looking for "Supporting Digital Abuse Victims" proposals that provide information and or support to digital abuse victims, as well as projects that provide digital abuse training or educational materials to stakeholders, including those within the criminal justice system. Proposals should include information on how the project will serve digital abuse victims, why your approach is important, and a brief summary of the evidence base for this approach and/or past program evaluation results.
Where the money comes from & my role as a Foundation board member
Do you remember Facebook's Beacon program? Back in 2007, Facebook came up with a plan for users to share purchases and other web activities on their Facebook newsfeed. It didn't go over well with privacy advocates and was eventually scrapped. But, in the interim, there was a class action lawsuit that resulted in Facebook agreeing to fund a Foundation to spend about $6.7 million to fund projects that advance the cause of privacy, safety and security.
I am one of three members of the Foundation board of directors along with U.C. Berkeley Law Professor Chris Hoofnagle and Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan.
If you have any questions, please contact the Foundation staff. I am not in a position to discuss or respond to emails about the RFP or the proposals.