The world’s internet is not as free as it was last year, or the year before that, or the year before that, according to independent watchdog organization Freedom House.
In its just-published Freedom on the Net 2015 report, which looked at internet freedom in 65 countries, global freedom is on the decline for the fifth year in a row.
Freedom House identified three countries where internet freedom suffered the most over the past year – Libya, Ukraine, and France.
“Of the 65 countries assessed, 32 have been on a negative trajectory since June 2014. The most significant declines occurred in Libya, Ukraine, and France. Libya, torn by internal conflict, experienced a troubling increase in violence against bloggers, new cases of political censorship, and rising prices for internet and mobile phone services. Ukraine, amid its own territorial conflict and propaganda war with Russia, featured more prosecutions for content that was critical of the government’s policies, as well as increased violence from pro-Russian paramilitary groups against users who posted pro Ukraine content in the eastern regions. France’s standing declined primarily due to problematic policies adopted in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, such as restrictions on content that could be seen as “apology for terrorism,” prosecutions of users, and significantly increased surveillance,” it writes.
China was named “the year’s worst abuser of internet freedom.”
“Governments are increasingly pressuring individuals and the private sector to take down or delete offending content, as opposed to relying on blocking and filtering,” said Sanja Kelly, project director for Freedom on the Net. “They know that average users have become more technologically savvy and are often able to circumvent state-imposed blocks.”
According to the report, some of the most frequently censored topics were criticism of authority, satire, political opposition, blasphemy, and LGBT issues.
A whopping 47 of the 65 countries studied censored criticism of authority in some way.
And just take a look at this chilling stat:
The study found that over 61 percent of all internet users live in countries where criticism of the government, military or ruling family has been subject to censorship online, and over 58 percent live in countries where bloggers or ICT users were jailed for sharing content on political, social, and religious issues.
18 of the 65 countries were given a “free” rating.