Freedom House: Governments Grow Increasingly Repressive Online
Brutal attacks against bloggers, politically motivated surveillance, proactive manipulation of web content, and restrictive laws regulating speech online are among the diverse threats to internet freedom emerging over the past two years, according to a new study released today by Freedom House. Despite these threats,Freedom on the Net 2012: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media found that increased pushback by civil society, technology companies, and independent courts resulted in several notable victories.
The battle over internet freedom comes at a time when nearly one third of the world’s population has used the internet. Governments are responding to the increased influence of the new medium by seeking to control online activity, restricting the free flow of information, and otherwise infringing on the rights of users.
Freedom on the Net 2012, which identifies key trends in internet freedom in 47 countries, evaluates each country based on barriers to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights.
The study found that Estonia had the greatest degree of internet freedom among the countries examined, while the United States ranked second. Iran, Cuba, and China received the lowest scores in the analysis.
Several downgrades, particularly in the Middle East, reflected intensified censorship, arrests, and violence against bloggers as the authorities sought to quell public calls for reform. In Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and China, authorities imposed new restrictions after observing the key role that social media played in the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
At the same time, 14 countries registered a positive trajectory, with Tunisia and Burma experiencing the largest improvements following dramatic political openings. The remaining gains occurred almost exclusively in democracies, highlighting the crucial importance of broader institutions of democratic governance in upholding internet freedom.
Countries at Risk: As part of its analysis, Freedom House identified a number of important countries that are seen as particularly vulnerable to deterioration in the coming 12 months: Azerbaijan, Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka.
To view the full report, click here.