The Internet is no longer a place where you can express your views freely. Free expression is under constant pressure. Authorities in almost 50 countries introduced new rules for technology companies last year. The number of cases in which governments in various countries have arrested people for non-violent, social or religious manifestations is constantly increasing. Officials have suspended access to the Internet in at least 20 countries and 21 states have blocked access to social media platforms. The authorities’ efforts to obtain user data from private sellers are growing.
Independent news at risk
Independent media are often referred to around the world as a source of misinformation. China has the worst environment for internet freedom in the world. Here, independent news is banned and social networks are in many cases banned or restricted. COVID-19 is one of the most censored topics in the election and pandemic worldwide. The views of many important experts are censored, as are the views of all people who disagree with governments. All power is gradually shifting from the hands of the citizens to the hands of the state. Digital authoritarianism must be prevented, democracy and freedom must rule on the Internet. Freedom of the Internet is closely monitored by the Freedom House portal, and below you can see the important infographics he has created.
Big Tech control
Dozens of countries have taken legal action against technology companies. Some steps were to prevent harassment and manipulation techniques. However, most of the steps brought only too broad censorship. Online activities are strictly monitored. Unfortunately, there is no shared global vision of a free and open Internet. Each government has its own idea of what the people of that country can do on the Internet. This results in close police control of the digital sphere. A large number of people are arrested and convicted every month for online speech. Some laws are designed to suppress government-critical content, rather than to protect users from harmful material. Authoritarian regimes such as those in China and Russia have taken tough steps, regardless of due process.
Evaluation of internet freedom
The annual “Freedom on the Net” study evaluates freedom of expression in 70 countries, which is 88% of all Internet users. According to the results, the freedom of the Internet has been falling sharply for 11 years in a row. More than 80 analysts and consultants rate Internet freedom in each country according to 21 different separate indicators, and Internet freedom is determined on a 100-point scale in each country.
In Myanmar, for example, internet freedom has fallen by 14 points. The military refused to accept the free election results, and until April, the internet connection was cut off every night and mobile services were completely suspended from March. Later, the junta also blocked social media, revoked licenses from independent online news channels, and seized control of the telecommunications infrastructure. Further restrictions on the Internet are regularly implemented in Belarus. In August 2020, the authoritarian office of Alyaksand Lukashenko declared victory in the fraudulent presidential election. The government has subsequently repeatedly curtailed access to the Internet, detained and used deadly force against online activists, and increased surveillance of social networks.
Internet freedom in Uganda fell by seven points after the January 2021 general election, which was marked by irregularities. Internet freedom has been declining in the United States for 5 years in a row.
Similarly, internet freedom is declining in other countries. Freedom of the Internet needs to be promoted and made a global and independent medium where people do not have to fear punishment for non-violent and free expression.