Thursday, October 29, 2015

World Internet freedom down for 5th straight year

Freedom House: World Internet Freedom Keeps Eroding - Alberto Pimienta, Voice of America:

October 28, 2015 - "Internet censorship around the globe continues to intensify. According to a report by the independent monitoring group Freedom House, for the fifth consecutive year, more nations are censoring information online and demanding that companies and individuals remove content or face retribution.

"The annually released Freedom of the Net Report assessed 65 countries and identified China as the worst offender.... Gady Epstein, former Beijing bureau chief for The Economist magazine, said China has become more aggressive with censorship in the last couple of years under President Xi Jinping. 'They’ve blocked Google; they’ve blocked Gmail and other Google services. They arrested more online activists, people who comment independently on a range of issues, including corruption,' said Epstein....

"In Russia and Iran, people who post content deemed offensive by the government can quickly and easily land in prison. 'Those countries tend to block materials of political and social relevance. They tend to arrest users for writing about human rights and opposition,' said Sanja Kelly, director of the report.

"Syria is the second-worst performer in the study. Bloggers, journalists and activists face execution by armed groups in the country, according to Freedom House.

In Iran, rated the third-worst nation, Tehran’s conservative powerbrokers, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, keep extremely tight control over the Internet, despite better bandwidth and the increase of 3G cellular connections.

"Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, increasingly play a big role in the way people get access to information in countries with restricted Web freedom.... The combination of social media services and content that authorities dislike, though, can be life-shattering. That is the case for Atena Farghadani, 28, an Iranian cartoonist. She was sentenced to 12 years in jail for posting one of her caricatures on Facebook, which portrayed Iranian lawmakers as animals.

"Freedom House said that during the research for the report, which focuses on events from June 2014 through May 2015, it stumbled upon a new development: Governments increasingly attack the source now....  'The governments are actually going to the company and saying, "This type of information exists on your servers. Take it down. If you don’t take it down, we’re going to either block your services or we’re going to take away your license so you will not be able to operate in our country any longer",' said Kelly."

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