MacArthur Award for U of T's Citizen Lab

Author: 
Irene Poetranto

The University of Toronto's Citizen Lab is one of seven nonprofit organizations around the world to receive the 2014 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions (MACEI).

The Award, announced February 20, recognizes exceptional nonprofit organizations who have demonstrated creativity and impact, and invests in their long-term sustainability with sizable one-time grants. 

“From exposing human rights abuses in cyberspace to reducing the influence of money in American politics, the missions of these organizations are diverse,” said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. “They share in common their demonstrated impact in improving the lives of people and communities. MacArthur hopes these investments will sustain and expand the reach of that impact.”

The Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary laboratory that develops new approaches for researching and documenting information controls (e.g. network surveillance and content filtering). In carrying out its work, the Citizen Lab aims to explore issues that affect the openness and security of the Internet and that pose threats to human rights. 

Its groundbreaking reports have exposed monitoring activities and privacy breaches by governments and other entities, including a report exposing Chinese malware, or malicious software, that infiltrated high-profile political, economic, and media organizations in 103 countries. 

"Being awarded the MACEI is a game-changer for the Citizen Lab,” said Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert. “It will enable us to continue to work independent of government and corporate interests, and not be afraid to tackle the tough problems hidden beneath the surface of the Internet that deserve the public’s attention.”

According to MacArthur, the Award is not only recognition for past leadership and success but also an investment in the future. The Citizen Lab will use most of its MacArthur Award as a permanent endowment to help support its core operations, and a small amount to better communicate its research to a wider public audience.

For these Awards, the Foundation does not seek or accept nominations. To qualify, organizations must demonstrate exceptional creativity and effectiveness; have reached a critical or strategic point in their development; show strong leadership and stable financial management; have previously received MacArthur support; and engage in work central to one of MacArthur’s core programs.

Additional information about why MacArthur selected the Citizen Lab for the Award and an overview video are at http://www.macfound.org/maceirecipients/80/.