The fight to preserve the internet as a tool of liberty

What’s the state of our internet freedoms around the world? Freedom House (2019) has recently released a report entitled ‘Freedom on the Net 2019‘.

According to the report, more than 3.8 billion people still have no access to the internet, but

  • 71% of those who have access do live in countries where individuals have been arrested and thrown in jail for posting political, social or religious content;
  • 65% live in countries where individuals have been attacked or killed for their online activities;
  • 59% live in countries where authorities use online commentators to manipulate online discussions;
  • 33 out of 65 countries that were assessed have seen their internet freedoms decline over past year.

The greatest declines in internet freedoms happened in Sudan, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. For the fourth consecutive year, China has been the greatest abuser of internet freedoms, and although the United States is still scoring well, they have been on decline for three consecutive years.

The ranking from most to least free is as follows:

FOTN 3

FOTN 4

The report scores the countries, based on the internet controls that are in place:

FOTN 1

FOTN 2

Governments hold more technological capabilities than ever before to surveil their citizens. They make use of bots to manipulate social media and big data analyses to surveil citizens. See for example this.  In August 2018, Le Dinh Luong has been sentenced to jail for 20 years in Vietnam for addressing and posting about human rights abuses on social media in the country. In March 2019, an Uyghur Muslim was stopped and interrogated for three days, because not HE but someone ELSE on his WeChat contact list had checked in from Mecca.

What was once a liberating technology has now become a conduit for surveillance and electoral manipulation. What can we do to protect our internet liberties?

4 thoughts on “The fight to preserve the internet as a tool of liberty

  1. I hope that before you end this series you’ll discuss steganography, which conceals that something is hidden in a sound or image file. Encryption methods such as PGP are (apparently) extremely secure, but it’s clear to any watcher that something hidden is being stored or sent. Steg overcomes that weakness.

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