Internet freedom in Estonia and Iceland is declared the highest in the world. Nevertheless, overall internet freedom has been declining for the sixth consecutive year now, as concluded in the latest study by Freedom House.
Freedom on the net 2016 study divided countries into three groups depending on their level of internet freedom – free, partly free and not free. Authors of the study observed the situation on the net from 1 June 2014 to 31 May 2016. Latvia and Lithuania were not included in this study.
The organization’s seventh consecutive study concluded that 34 out of 65 surveyed countries had negative internet freedom tendency. The situation is the worst in Uganda, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ecuador and Libya.
Improvements in the level of internet freedom have been noticed in fourteen countries. In most cases, however, those improvements have been minimal.
Seventeen countries are on the list as countries with the highest degree of freedom on the internet. Estonia and Iceland are in the lead. These two countries are followed by Canada, USA, Germany, Australia, Japan, UK, France, Georgia, Italy, South African Republic, the Philippines, Argentina, Hungary, Kenya and Armenia.
The partly free countries group consists of twenty eight countries: Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea, Mexico, Tunisia, Ukraine, Zambia, Angola, Ecuador, India, Malawi, Singapore, Uganda, Indonesia, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Malaysia, Jordan, Rwanda, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan, Libya and Venezuela.
The not free group consists of 20 countries: Turkey, Myanmar, Belarus, Egypt, Kazakhstan, the Sudan, Thailand, Russia, Gambia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Viet Nam, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Syria and People’s Republic of China.
Countries participating in the study were given points in accordance with three categories: delays with access to the internet, content restriction on the internet and breach of human rights online. 0 points means a country is free of a certain category for restrictions and 100 points means the country is not free at all. The free countries group ranges within 0-30 points, the partly free countries group includes 31-60 points and the not free group includes countries with 61-100 points.
Estonia and Iceland both have six points; Canada has 16 points; USA has 18 points; Ukraine, Mexico, Tunisia and Zambia have 38 points each; Turkey has 61 points; Belarus has 62 points; Russia and Sudan have 64 points each and China has 88 points.
China received harsh criticisms for its efforts to fight the freedom of speech using President Xi Jinping’s ‘information security’ policy. Freedom House notes that new amendments to the criminal law provide a seven-year prison sentence for spreading rumours on social networks, which are often used to criticize the government. Representatives of religious minorities may also face criminal liability for viewing videos containing religious contents on their mobile devices.
Authors of the study also note that internet freedom in the world has been declining for six consecutive years. Governments around the world actively turn against social network apps and websites in hopes of halting rapid spread of information, especially during anti-government protests.
Attempts to censure sites like Twitter and Facebook have been continuing for years. Lately, more effort has been put into silencing WhatsApp and Telegram apps.