The Internet is a constantly evolving organism, always shifting to deal with the threats placed in front of it: malicious hackers, spying governments, censors, and challenges that don't yet exist.
The winners of the 2014 Knight News Challenge all focus on keeping the Internet open, secure, and free of censorship. The competition, launched in February, will dole out $3.4 million to 19 winners, including 10 prototype projects.
One of the big themes among the winners is censorship. One winning project, Global Censorship Measurement, is a platform that will host tools for evaluating the openness of the Internet, looking at blocked sites, connection speeds, and other kinds of data. Another, OnlineCensorship.org, will gather data on specific incidents of online censorship. Yet another winner, Ranking Digital Rights, is brainstorming ways to rank big tech companies on how well they protect privacy and free expression. Anti-Censorship Alert System, one of the prototype winners, plans on launching tools that make it possible for people to view blocked websites.
A handful of the winners also focus on secure communications. TextSecure's existing Android app offers a secure messaging platform for users; the additional funds will go towards further development. CertiDig, one of the prototype winners, plans to provide a secure authentication method for online data while still keeping the identities of senders and receivers private
Libraries are Internet access hubs for many people, so it's not too surprising to see that a number of the honorees this year are their creations. The New York Public Library won for its Check Out the Internet project, which will allow locals without steady Internet access to borrow Wi-Fi hotspot devices for up to one year. Chicago Public Library won for Internet to Go, a similar project offering residents portable Wi-Fi hotspots for up to three weeks. Chicagoans will also have access to online tutorials as well as personal "digital literacy and skills coaching."
The Digital Public Library of America, meanwhile, created a project called Getting It Right on Rights that will encompass a simplified rights structure for content collections, as well as best practices for libraries, museums, and other content sources.
Check out all of the winners here.