Two-thirds of people on the planet live under government Internet censorship, while Internet freedom has declined for the sixth consecutive year, according to a report from Freedom House.
Freedom House discovered that around 67% of Internet users live in countries where criticism of the state is either illegal or subject to censorship, while 27% of users live in countries where people “have been arrested for publishing, sharing, or merely ‘liking’ content on Facebook.”
“Internet freedom has declined for the sixth consecutive year, with more governments than ever before targeting social media and communication apps as a means of halting the rapid dissemination of information, particularly during anti-government protests,” wrote Freedom House in their report.
“Public-facing social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been subject to growing censorship for several years, but in a new trend, governments increasingly target voice communication and messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram,” they continued. “These services are able to spread information and connect users quickly and securely, making it more difficult for authorities to control the information landscape or conduct surveillance.”
Only 24% of Internet users in the world are also classed as “free,” while 29% are classed as “partly free” and 35% as “not free.”
“Free” countries included the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Germany, France, Italy, Hungary, Estonia, Kenya, South Africa, Georgia, Armenia, Japan, and the Philippines.
Countries classed as “not free” included China, Russia, Cuba, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Thailand, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and the United Arab Emirates.
China was the worst abuser of Internet freedom, followed by Syria and Iran.
Facebook is outright banned in eight countries; Whatsapp in twelve; Twitter, Skype, and Instagram in seven; and YouTube in six.
“Users in some countries were put behind bars for simply ‘liking’ offending material on Facebook, or for not denouncing critical messages sent to them by others,” explained the report. “Offenses that led to arrests ranged from mocking the king’s pet dog in Thailand to “spreading atheism” in Saudi Arabia. The number of countries where such arrests occur has increased by over 50 percent since 2013.”
Earlier this month, China passed a new bill which further prohibits criticism of the communist government. This includes anything that goes against “national honour”, “disturbs economic or social order”, or attempts to overthrow “the socialist system.”