Freedom House, an NGO dedicated to the defense of democracy, published a study indicating that a growing number of governments are forcing Internet players to comply with censorship and online surveillance decisions.
These findings were published as part of the annual “Freedom on the Net 2021” report. The document, which reveals that 48 of the 70 countries covered by the report, representing 88% of Internet users globally, have imposed new rules on technology companies when it comes to content, data or competition in the last year.
“While some measures reflect legitimate attempts to mitigate online harm, limit data misuse, or end manipulative business practices, many new laws impose overly broad censorship requirements on the private sector and data collection,” it says The report.
The strongest deteriorations were recorded in Burma, Belarus and Uganda
The NGO is particularly concerned that at least 24 countries have passed or announced new laws or regulations governing the way platforms handle content, which could lead to increased censorship of political dissent, media reporting communication, research and expressions of ethnic, religious, sexual or gender identity.
According to Freedom House, Internet freedom in the world has declined for the eleventh year in a row, with the greatest declines in Myanmar (Burma), Belarus (Belarus) and Uganda.
Freedom House measures Internet freedom by evaluating 21 different indicators, related to access barriers, content limits and violations of user rights, the organization explains.
China is the most violated country of Internet freedom in the world
Meanwhile, China remained the country that most violated Internet freedom in the world, according to the NGO. In particular, due to the introduction in the country of new legislation that criminalizes the online expression that insults members of the armed forces, “heroes” and “martyrs”, and the continued censorship online.
The NGO adds that China’s technological crackdown is “one of the most aggressive” in anti-competitive practices, raising fears that the government is seeking more to limit autonomy and influence in the private sector, rather than creating more equitable markets. .
Among other statistics revealed in the report, 80% of the countries analyzed have arrested people for their messages posted online; 64% of the authorities in these countries have deployed pro-government commentators to manipulate online discussions; 41% of countries have disconnected the Internet or mobile networks for political reasons; and 46% have blocked or restricted social media platforms, mainly during protests and elections.
Use of spyware
On the surveillance front, authorities in at least 45 of the 70 countries covered by the report are believed to have access to sophisticated spyware or data mining technologies, provided by companies such as NSO Group, Cellebrite, Circles and FinFisher. reports Freedom House.
In issuing the warning, the organization called on lawmakers responsible for writing data privacy laws to focus on protecting users, while preventing further fragmentation of the Internet, for example by ensuring that government surveillance programs are adhere to the EFF’s International Principles on the Application of Human Rights. to the surveillance of communications.
It also says that lawmakers should see encryption as a fundamental part of cybersecurity, commerce and human rights, and that weakening encryption would put the lives of activists, journalists and members of minorities at risk.
With respect to other areas of law, Freedom House believes that competition policy should foster innovation, in order to meet user demand for personalization, security, and interoperability, and that regulation should ensure that power does not accumulate. in the hands of a few dominant players, whether in government or the private sector.