Internet freedom around the world has declined for the fifth consecutive year, according to Freedom House’s report “Freedom on the Net 2015”.
More governments are censoring information of public interest and placing greater demands on the private sector to take down offending content. 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. China was the year’s worst abuser of internet freedom.
Governments around the world have moved to ban encryption and undermine anonymity for all internet users, and are now pressuring companies and individuals to remove content, as opposed to simply blocking. 14 of 65 countries passed new laws to increase surveillance over the past year. In the Middle East, flogging, life sentences, and beheadings deterred the sort of digital organizing that contributed to the Arab Spring.
It remains to be seen whether repressive efforts will be sustainable in the long run.
Frequently Censored Topics:
- Criticism of Authorities: A remarkable 47 of the 65 countries assessed censored criticism of the authorities, the military, or the ruling family.
- Corruption: Authorities in 28 countries sought to cover up accusations of corruption or misuse of public funds.
- Political Opposition: Twenty-three countries censored the political opposition.
- Satire: Authorities in 23 of the 65 countries assessed went to great lengths to muzzle ridicule and ironic commentary about public officials.
- Social Commentary: Discussion on social issues—including economic conditions and cultural questions—was targeted for censorship in 20 of the countries assessed.
- Blasphemy: Twenty-one countries censored content that was considered insulting to religion.
- Mobilization for Public Causes: Sixteen of the countries in Freedom on the Net censored digital activism such as calls to protest, online petitions, or campaigns for social or political action.
- Gesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI): Fourteen countries targeted LGBTI content for censorship on moral, religious, or other grounds, reflecting the entrenched and often state-endorsed bias against the LGBTI community in some parts of the world.
- Ethnic and Religious Minorities: Thirteen countries censored information by or about a minority community, reinforcing routine discrimination against marginalized groups and obstructing efforts to combat it.
- Conflict: News and opinion on conflict, terrorism, or outbreaks of violence were subject to censorship in 29 of the 65 countries reviewed.
Featured Image: Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani was sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges of insulting state officials and spreading propaganda for posting this image on Facebook depicting members of parliament as animals, casting votes on proposed legislation to limit reproductive rights. (via Freedom House)