Another year has passed in the realm of digital freedom, leaving the global situation more and more precarious, especially in the context of various elections taking place throughout the world.
According to Freedom House, which surveyed 65 countries for its ‘Freedom on the Net 2017’ report (87% of the world’s Internet users), the state of the Internet freedom around the world has little cause for celebration, as this year continues to present a world where few societies give their citizens access to a free, uncensored Internet.
Thus, nearly half of the 65 countries assessed in Freedom on the Net 2017 experienced declines during the coverage period, while just 13 made progress, most of it minor. Less than one-quarter of users reside in countries where the internet is designated free, meaning there are no major obstacles to access, excessive restrictions on content, or serious violations of user rights in the form of unchecked surveillance or unjust repercussions for legitimate speech.
However, in one of the world’s leading democracies, the United States, the use of “fake news”, automated “bot” accounts, and other manipulation methods gained particular attention and caused a decline in the country’s overall Internet freedom. While the online environment in the US remained generally free, it was troubled by a proliferation of fabricated news articles, as well as aggressive harassment of many journalists, both during and after the presidential election campaign.
The usual suspects and some unexpected improvements
Of the 65 countries assessed, 32 have been on an overall decline since June 2016. The biggest declines took place in Ukraine, Egypt, and Turkey.