Freedom House, a U.S. based government funded non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights published its report on internet freedom “Freedom on the Net 2017”. Each year we see an increase in physical and technical attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and independent media, shutdowns of mobile internet service for alleged political or security reasons and an overall decline in internet freedom. According to the report, nearly 3.4 billion people have access to the internet and only less than one-quarter of users have no major obstacles to access, onerous restrictions on content, or serious violations of user rights in the form of unchecked surveillance or unjust repercussions for legitimate speech. Manipulating social media, fake news phenomenon, automated “bot”accounts, restrictions on virtual private networks, banning encrypted communication and other activities by governments around the globe are seriously endangering democracy and civic activism.
It is concluded that in addition to manipulating online content, governments also target mobile connectivity usually in areas populated by minority ethnic or religious groups, block live-streaming applications and arrest those who are trying to broadcast abuse during political protests, use cyberattacks as a way of controlling opposition politicians, human rights defenders, independent blogs and news websites. These manipulation and disinformation tactics which play an important part in elections around the world are creating societies more vulnerable to disinformation.
Once again, China takes the first place in abusing internet freedom. Government critics were sentenced to up to 11 years in prison on the account of publishing articles on overseas websites. In July 2017 the world reacted to the news about death of democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo from liver cancer while in custody. Liu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was in prison since a prodemocracy manifesto he coauthored was circulated online in 2009. The biggest declines took place in Ukraine, Egypt, and Turkey. It is important to mention that in Egypt, authorities blocked over 100 websites, including that of the Qatar-based news network Al-Jazeera, independent news site Mada Masr, and the blogging platform Medium. In Turkey, thousands of people were arrested for downloading the encrypted communication app ByLock through Apple and Google app stores because of possibility that the app was used for communications in the failed July 2016 coup attempt.
You can read the whole report here.