Global Internet freedom declines for 11th straight year, China emerges as worst abuser

Protesters from the Anonymous India group of hackers wear Guy Fawkes masks as they protest against laws they say gives the government control over censorship of internet usage in Mumbai.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Internet freedom, a term that includes digital rights, freedom of information, and the right to Internet access, has declined for the 11th year in a row worldwide, according to a report by U.S.-based not-for-profit entity Freedom House.

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The greatest deteriorations were found in Myanmar, Belarus, and Uganda, where state forces cracked down amid electoral and constitutional crises, the report noted. China was ranked as the worst environment for Internet freedom for the seventh year in a row.

Suppression of Internet freedom indicates that governments across the world are asserting their authority over technology platforms, forcing business to comply with censorship and surveillance.

The report added that authorities in at least 45 countries, including India, are suspected to have access to targeted spyware and extraction technology purchased from private companies. Other countries on the list include Nigeria, Hungary, Mexico and Myanmar.

The not-for-profit categorised more than 60 countries based on nine key Internet controls to document how governments censor and control the digital space.

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India checked eight of these parameters, indicating that at least one instance has been imposed by the government between May 2020 and June 2021. The controls include blocking of social media, deliberate disruption of communication network, manipulation of online discussions by pro-government commentators, and the introduction of a new law increasing surveillance and restricting anonymity, the report stated.

Governments in least 48 countries surveyed pursued new rules for tech companies on content, data, and competition in the past year, attempting to suppress online dissent. In fact, India ranks among 55 other countries that have investigated, arrested, or convicted people for their social media posts, especially on WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Freedom House also assessed 88% of the world’s Internet population and found that nearly 72% people live in countries where individuals have been killed or attacked for their online activities since June 2020.

“In these high-stakes battles between governments and tech companies, human rights risk becoming the main casualties,” said Adrian Shahbaz, director for technology and democracy at Freedom House.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 3:11:29 PM |

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