Freedom House: Internet freedom situation worsens

Freedom Report 2021 by US think tank Freedom House – India downgraded from Free to Partly Free #IAS

Freedom House: Internet freedom situation worsens

Many countries use mobile Internet outages or pay trolls. Increasingly, online speech leads to physical violence

Internet freedom is worsening globally, with governments blocking mobile communications, restricting live video streaming, and hiring a cyber army of pro-government commentators.

These are just some of the findings of the Freedom on the Net 2017 annual report, which is prepared by Freedom House, an international human rights organization that monitors the level of democracy and freedom around the world..

The authors of the report assessed the situation in 65 countries, which account for about 87 percent of the world’s population connected to the Internet. According to them, between June 2016 and May 2017, about half of these countries experienced a decrease in the level of freedom on the Internet. The most noticeable negative dynamics in one year was noted in Ukraine, Egypt and Turkey.

China remains the most serious violator of Internet freedom, the report notes, followed by Syria and Ethiopia..

Sanya Kelly, director of Freedom House’s Freedom on the Web project, says the decline in Internet freedom has coincided with an increase in Internet access around the world, as people increasingly turn to him to promote democratic reforms and improve human rights..

“One of the reasons we see tighter restrictions is precisely because some leaders, especially authoritarian countries, have realized the power of the Internet and are trying to find innovative methods to suppress it,” she said..

Until recently, some governments in Africa and other regions of the world did not pay much attention to the Internet, focusing on traditional media such as television and radio. This focus begins to shift when Internet penetration reaches 20-30 percent of the population, notes Kelly..

“Suddenly, governments start to take this into account, and we start to notice propaganda activities,” she said..

Countries such as Zambia and The Gambia closed mobile internet access, especially during elections.

“Blocking the mobile Internet is such a crude measure that it shows that the government is ready to move to a new level of counteraction,” says Kelly.

Here are some other findings from the report:

• Online manipulation tactics played a role in elections in 18 countries.

• Governments of 30 countries promoted distorted information on the Internet using tools such as paid commentators and fake news sites. In the previous year, there were 23 such countries.

• Half of all Internet outages are due to mobile communications, and most of the incidents in this category occurred in ethnic or religious minority areas.

In October 2016, the Ethiopian government shut off mobile internet for nearly two months as part of a state of emergency amid anti-government protests..

Belarusian authorities create disruptions in mobile communications to prevent video streaming for mass audiences.

Bahrain issues special law prohibiting news sites from using live video.

• In 30 countries (up from 20 in the previous year), there were cases of physical violence for speaking on the Internet.

Not so long ago, such methods of suppressing freedom on the Internet were used mainly in China and Russia..

“The prevalence of these methods and the number of countries where they are present is a new phenomenon in itself,” says Kelly..

“It looks like these methods are spreading and some authoritarian countries like China and Russia are actually exporting them,” she adds. “And some of the world’s authoritarian regimes learn from these examples.”.

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