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Keeping Ukrainians online during electricity outages

Montreal, Canada
December 26, 2022
Press release

Canadian support from eQualitie allows hundreds of thousands of Internet users in Ukraine to stay connected

Canadian Technology Organization eQualitie, in partnership with the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, DEPS UA, and the Association of “Right Owners and Providers of Content”, supplied 29 Ukrainian ISPs with 172 SBL 135-12HR batteries to power the providers’ fiber optic network during power outages.

A cargo weighing 6,600 kg as humanitarian aid arrived in Ukraine from Poland, where eQualitie purchased a series of  batteries donated for Ukrainian ISPs. Each battery weighing 38 kg will be installed on the fibre optic and distribution networks of local Internet providers, allowing them to power their networks for an additional 10-12 hours through the electricity outages. This batch of donations has a total capacity of 20,640 Amps or 247 kWh. – helping more Ukrainians access the Internet without interruption. 

Distribution of batteries is based on a needs assessment conducted by eQualitie together with the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine. The stated needs were to bring batteries for regions most affected by Russian aggression – Chernihiv, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Zhytomyr, Sumy, etc.

This support became possible due to the efforts and commitments of the Canadian government, taking place within the framework of the project “Digital Emergency Support of Civil Society in Ukraine”, implemented by eQualitie together with the NGO “Internews Ukraine”. Internet Service Providers are among the project’s key recipients, – supporting their efforts in providing Internet and communication services to the public.

Whilst the Ukrainian Internet has shown great resilience during this conflict, it is essentially another civic utility reliant on electricity. Internet access has provided a communications and an information lifeline for so many over the last eleven months. In the conditions of constant Russian shelling of the critical infrastructure of Ukraine, and as a result – power outages, the work of providers becomes even more difficult. We note the significant efforts of Ukrainian providers to restore the infrastructure damaged during the war in order and hope that our small contribution will allow hundreds of thousands of people get reliable access to the Internet” notes Dmitri Vitaliev, eQualitie’s director.

With the first shipment of batteries, eQualitie joins the international campaign “Keep Ukraine Connected” by NOG Alliance as an initiative of international assistance with equipment for Ukrainian ISPs. In January, eQualitie plans to purchase and bring additional batteries to Ukraine.

Beyond the supply of batteries, in Ukraine eQualitie protects the websites of Ukrainian media and CSOs from DDoS attacks by means of its own infrastructure called Also, the organization helps users in the temporarily occupied territories access a free Internet, with the CENO browser software, an Android application that helps them evade Russian censorship. At the very beginning of the conflict, eQualitie launched a decentralized communications project in Ukraine with 10 regional locations for Ukrainian users to chat using the secure Matrix system and communicate on the Mastodon social network.

For media inquiries, please, contact Vitalii Moroz at 

eQualitie creates decentralized internet services in support of a more equal and equitable network. Our solutions are open source, battle proven and developed in mind of our principles. Everyday, they enable freedom of association for millions of people online.

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Apply to join our regional ambassadors promoting eQualitie’s Internet freedom services

We are looking for informed and motivated individuals to promote our censorship circumvention tools and website protection services to local media, civil society, democratic movements and activist organizations. You will help us define and lead outreach strategies in your country/ies of focus, offer onboarding support and coordinate with our helpdesks. In turn, you will receive training on the given tools and services and join our growing team of internet freedom advocates. We are looking for regional ambassadors from the 2023 priority list. See the job advertisement for more detail and application form.


Priority language groups and regions for 2023


  • Angola
  • Brazil
  • Mozambique
  • Timor Leste


  • Bolivia
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Venezuela


  • Tanzania
  • Zimbabwe
  • Uganda
  • Zambia


  • Iraq


  • Pakistan

Turkish and/or Azerbaijani

  • Azerbaijan
  • Turkey


  • Afghanistan
  • Iran


  • Djibouti
  • DR Congo
  • Mali


  • Belarus
  • Russia
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The need for a broad-based digital rights movement in Canada

By Michel Lambert



On 8 February 2022, almost two years into the pandemic, two important political events happened in Canada. For the first time, a member of the federal parliament, Joel Lightbound, who is also from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada, spoke out publicly on the government’s COVID-19 policies, saying they had become “politicised” and “divisive”. His political future was at stake for a few weeks.

The same day, as infection rates from the fifth wave appeared to be declining in his province, the premier of Quebec, François Legault, declared that most restrictions would be removed within the following month. However, two major policies would remain in effect: the vaccine passport – an application on mobile phones necessary for every individual to have access to stores and services – and the state of emergency which allows the government to run affairs without using the usual political institutions.

These two separate events demonstrate how the federal and provincial governments have kept tight control over the management and messaging of the COVID-19 pandemic, and wish to carry on doing so, including by disallowing debates on their policies and stifling any divergent viewpoints.


Signs that the government wants more control

Vaccine passports

In Quebec, where 81% of the population has received two vaccines already, and where this rate is still growing daily, insisting on the vaccine passport is inexplicable other than by the government’s interest in continuing to track people. The Quebec National Institute for Public Health in Quebec (Institut national de santé publique du Québec) has even recently admitted that they have no proof of the efficiency of the passport. Many technical weaknesses with the passport application have also been exposed. As of January 2022, more than 150 investigations into fake passports were opened, with guilty people facing fraud charges and up to five years in prison.

Mass surveillance

In December 2021, the Canadian public health agency admitted to having tracked 33 million mobile devices during the lockdown that year. To do so, they awarded a contract to the Telus Data for Good programme,1 a programme launched by the Telus telecommunications company, claiming to help “solve pressing societal issues in ways that preserve privacy and build trust.” The irony of that situation has made the public realise that there are few regulations that act as safeguards in protecting privacy in Canada. As a result, local NGOs have started to request that the government introduce new laws that would create rules around how public bodies report on the collection and use of sensitive personal information, and provide oversight from an independent third party, like the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

New laws to control Canadians – and no law to protect them

At the federal level, while disinformation and misinformation existed before COVID-19, the pandemic has spawned two ambitious and very dangerous draft laws looking at controlling what is accessible to Canadians over the internet from almost all online services, as well as controlling what Canadians publish online.

In November 2020, the government introduced Bill C-10, followed in June 2021 by Bill C-36.

Bill C-10, called the censorship bill” by many, was initially presented as a way of generating new taxes for streaming services. It was rapidly sent to the senate after a gag order was placed on the committee studying it. Instead of simply taxing streaming services, critics found that the bill would amend the Canadian Broadcasting Act and grant utterly inappropriate power to one institution, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). It would have the power to decide which audiovisual content is available on the internet. The bill’s adoption was delayed because of the Canadian elections in September 2021. It was, however, reintroduced as Bill C-11 in February 2022.

Despite government promises of a less aggressive version, the second version of the bill still gives a limitless reach to the CRTC’s jurisdictional power over audiovisual services on the internet. An internal memo from the government2 identified a wide range of sites and services, including video streaming, podcast apps, audiobooks, home workout apps and adult and sport websites potentially covered by the legislation. Michael Geist, a well-known researcher from the University of Ottawa, believes that this may result in many services choosing to block the Canadian market3 entirely.

Bill C-36 was presented in June 2021 to fight online hate speech. It would have amended the Canadian Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Canadian Human Rights Act to allow individuals or groups to file hate speech complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Critics said it was fraught with problems and risked hampering freedom of speech on top of being difficult to enforce.

Between July and September 2021, the Canadian Heritage Ministry consulted interested parties on the proposed bill. While the majority of respondents consulted during this process confirmed the need to take action on the problem of hate speech, they also identified several overarching concerns, including those related to freedom of expression, privacy rights, the impact of the proposal on certain marginalised groups, and compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.4


Civil society has caught “long COVID”

These threats to civil freedoms coming from the national and provincial level have seriously affected political life in Canada, and particularly in provinces like Quebec. Mainstream media have completely abdicated their role of being a watchdog to power, and have reduced themselves to just being transmission channels for government decisions on the pandemic. Journalists who dared to question those policies were fired. The most recent example is Francine Pelletier, a well-known journalist from the newspaper Le Devoir in Montreal who dared to write an article questioning the government’s policy of prioritising vaccination over other possible interventions in its strategy for combatting the virus in January 2022. She was fired a week later.

As governments are managing the pandemic outside of the normal institutions and parameters, political parties have been reduced to observers, hardly criticising the footnotes from government policies that are introduced.

Maybe most of all, civil society organisations have slowly slipped into a state of dormancy – a kind of long COVID. As many of the global campaigns and movements – against climate change, racism, gender-based violence, war and others – were suddenly paused due to the pandemic, many local organisations lost contact with a global perspective. They were trapped into managing immediate difficulties, including financial difficulties, and were struggling to maintain democratic structures online and to reflect and act on pressing political issues. Added to this is the absence of a substantial, critical and alternative vision that is not aligned with the idea that the virus is a conspiracy and that it does not exist. Civil society had its TINA5 – or “there is no alternative” – moment. This has resulted in a real inability to debate alternative political perspectives from a factual point of view, and to create alternative, meaningful strategies that safeguard human rights.


The future of digital rights advocacy

Canadian digital rights advocacy can be defined in many ways, but in particular by the obvious characteristic that there are far fewer actors in the actual movement than the number of people and organisations that really should be concerned by the development of such a broad-scope tool as the internet. This might be explained by the fact that the Canadian Internet Governance Forum (IGF) process is very young (it was first funded in 2019) and fragmented (a Quebec Provincial IGF also exists, but the two processes are still not formally connected), and possibly by a certain conviction held by many that the internet in Canada is “safe and secure”, here to stay, relatively easy to access, and somehow self-managed. In comparison to other human rights movements in Canada, digital rights organisations can be quite specialised, not always successfully connecting with the “offline” rights movements or any other civil society group concerned about the internet.

It is also fair to say that the digital rights organisations could be better connected to each other, learn more from each others’ work, and cooperate more on campaigns. While Canadian community-based campaigns working on many issues are often federated in associations, giving weight to their advocacy, this is not the case in the field of digital rights. For instance, when ethical hackers easily infiltrated the COVID vaccination app in Quebec, and pointed out the app’s weaknesses to the government, they were immediately labelled as anti-government and threatened with judicial proceedings, but hardly any organisation stood up to support them.

Digital rights organisations are probably not spending enough of their resources on educating other organisations or their constituents about the importance and challenges of digital rights. A study[1]6  by Lab-Delta, a Montreal-based group doing research on technology and activism, concluded after interviewing university students that even when people assume and pretend that they understand digital rights issues, the majority of them do not. This lack of understanding of the issues is one reason why it is difficult to connect digital rights movements meaningfully to other societal concerns, and also shows the huge need to educate the public on digital rights issues.

However, there is only so much digital rights organisations can do. Their resources are limited, and most of them are currently spent on engaging the government on policy and legislation, as was clear from the last two roundtables held at the Canadian IGF. While there were many recommendations, they were all directed at what the government should do.



I would argue that there has been more of a pause than a real shift in digital rights advocacy in Canada as a result of the pandemic. Central issues facing the movement, namely the lack of networking inside and outside the movement, and the lack of public education, were realities prior to March 2020, and are likely to persist in the near future.

Even the two new federal laws, C-11 and C-36, were already planned, at least as far as government intentions go, as early as 2019. The scope they initially chose to give to these bills was boosted by the sudden need to counter COVID disinformation, which was not expected, but a mandate letter to the Canadian Heritage Minister in December 2019[2]7 already mentioned the government’s plans to create new regulations for social media platforms, requiring them and internet service providers (ISPs) to remove “illegal content”, including hate speech.


[1] Couture, S., et al. (2021). Stratégies d’engagement pour et par le numérique. Lab-Delta.




This report was originally published as part of a larger compilation: “Global Information Society Watch 2021-2022


Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) – Some rights reserved.

Global Information Society Watch 20121-2022 – print
ISBN 978-92-95113-53-4
APC Serial: APC-202211-CIPP-R-EN-P-343

Global Information Society Watch 2021-2022 web and e-book
ISBN 978-92-95113-52-7
APC Serial: APC-202211-CIPP-R-EN-DIGITAL-342

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Launching the Ukrainian digital security helpline – Nadiyno

On 8th of November 2022, eQualitie and Internews Ukraine are launching – the first national digital security helpline in Ukraine, for responding to any and all questions from the public relating to cyber security. We have assembled and trained a dedicated team of helpline support staff and digital experts, stood up systems to document and respond to incoming requests and compiled a growing database of security FAQs on the Nadiyno website. Requests are accepted and replied to using email, web chat, WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, and on a Matrix channel.

During wartime, people are under incredible psychological and physical stress. Secure and unimpeded use of digital technology and services, in particular communications, are an essential public need and frequently a lifeline to those in distress. With support from Global Affairs Canada we are launching the Nadiyno helpline for all Ukrainians’ digital security questions. – Dmitri Vitaliev, director of eQualitie.


Please see the announcement from Internews Ukraine for more information on the public launch event in Kyiv. If you would like to aid or contribute to the effort, please contact Kateryna – ktsybenko(at)

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eQualitie launches CENO, world’s first decentralized p2p mobile browser

Share the web, peer-to-peer. CENO.

CENO Browser lets anyone access and share information in areas with censored communications

Montreal, May 10, 2022 – eQualitie, developer of open-source and reusable digital security systems, is pleased to announce the public launch of its newest democratization tool, CENO Browser. Short for, CENO is the world’s first mobile browser that is built specifically to side-step current Internet censorship methods. It also enables people to access and share information in and across regions where connectivity has been interrupted or compromised.

CENO uses established technologies in new ways. While the user experience is akin to using a standard mobile browser, CENO operates over a peer-to-peer (p2p) network on the open-source Ouinet library and BitTorrent protocols, allowing it to run reliably where other browsers might not or do not. Because the web content is delivered, cached and decentralized via p2p routing, it cannot be forcibly removed by external agents. Furthermore, CENO is equipped to access and share cached content offline and via local area networks (LANs). CENO’s resiliency makes it ideal for those who need stable access to and sharing capabilities of web information during media censorship events, filtering, attacks, shutdowns, natural disruptions, unrest, conflict and war. CENO’s routing and distribution can also significantly reduce bandwidth consumption and associated costs.

“CENO holds great promise and launches at an opportune time for those engaged in democracy movements and activities,” says Dmitri Vitaliev, founder and director of eQualitie. “It is already helping thousands of civilians, NGOs, investigative journalists and independent media internationally to share information on their mobile devices.”

View the press release in full

Download CENO Browser from the Playstore

The project on Github


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eQualitie’s position on the war in Ukraine

український / русский / english / français /

Oh bury me, then rise ye up
And break your heavy chains
And water with the tyrants’ blood
The freedom you have gained.
And in the great new family,
The family of the free,
With softly spoken, kindly word
Remember also me.

Testament, Taras Shevchenko, 1845
(translated by John Weir)

For ten years eQualitie has stood firmly in defence of digital human rights. Throughout this time, we strive to create technology and offer services that protect freedom of expression and association online. To help us stay balanced in achieving this mission we have purposely stayed out of politics, debates or public declarations.

But, as the Russian army is invading and destroying Ukrainian cities, killing innocent civilians and hiding the truth from its own population – we choose to stand with Ukrainians who are defending their homes and families. We mourn the lives already lost and the destruction of Ukrainian cities and its cultural heritage. We also choose to stand with Russian anti-war protesters , arrested in their thousands for trying to stop the annihilation of morality in their country. This is an international struggle for human dignity, freedom and the right to life.

To this effect, we have launched technical and capacity building efforts focused on supporting Ukrainian civil society and territorial defences, as well as supporting activities in Russia that preserve online communities and those challenging the war efforts. Some of this work has already begun:

Why now? Simply because maintaining our neutrality will not sufficiently address the injustice and undue suffering caused by the Russian government and army on the people of Ukraine.

We believe that Ukraine will win, their people will rise from the ashes of this conflict, stronger in spirit and solidarity. And we will make every effort to help them in this struggle!


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