Report about Freedom on the InternetApril 18th, 2011 Theme: Internet Freedom
Recently Freedom House released the findings of Freedom on the Net 2011, a new study that assesses the state of internet freedom around the world. The report, which examined 37 countries, found that as internet use has dramatically grown, so have cyber attacks, politically motivated censorship, and government control over internet infrastructure.
In many of the countries studied, governments have responded 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. Crackdowns on bloggers, censorship, and targeted cyberattacks often coincided with broader political turmoil, including controversial elections.
The Freedom on the Net analysis evaluates each country based on barriers to internet access, limitations on content, and violations of users’ rights.
The study found that Estonia enjoys the greatest degree of internet freedom among the countries examined, while the United States ranked second. Iran received the lowest score in the analysis. Eleven other countries were designated as Not Free, including Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand.
Freedom House also identified a number of “at-risk countries,” which are seen as particularly vulnerable to deterioration in the coming 12 months: Jordan, Russia, Thailand, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.
Key Trends in Freedom on the Net
* Explosion in social-media use met with censorship: In response to the growing popularity of internet-based applications like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, many governments are targeting the new platforms as part of their censorship strategies. In 12 of the 37 countries examined, the authorities consistently or temporarily imposed total bans on these applications or their equivalents.
* Bloggers and ordinary users face arrest: Bloggers, online journalists, and human rights activists, as well as ordinary people, increasingly face arrest and imprisonment for their online writings. In 23 of the 37 countries, including several democratic states, at least one blogger or internet user was detained because of online communications.
* Cyberattacks against regime critics intensifying: Governments and their sympathizers are increasingly using technical attacks to disrupt activists’ online networks, eavesdrop on their communications, and cripple their websites.
* Politically motivated censorship and content manipulation growing: A total of 15 of the 37 countries examined were found to engage in substantial online blocking of politically relevant content.
* Governments exploit centralized internet infrastructure to limit access: Centralized government control over a country’s connection to international internet traffic poses a significant threat to free online expression, particularly at times of political turmoil.