The year 2016 has seen an unprecedented surge in government surveillance. Without a doubt, it has been a difficult year for netizens and internet freedom advocates. The global internet freedom has declined for the sixth year in a row.
The anti-piracy movement that started in October 2015, gained momentum in 2016, thanks to some ‘proactive’ measures by the international community.
The censorship wrath on internet freedom continues
First, it was the European Union that come up with a stringent set of net neutrality regulations to curb down on the online freedom.
Then the United States followed the suit and come up with its own set of rules, resulting in the decline of internet usage amongst the American users due to online privacy concerns, limiting internet freedom of the American netizens.
More recently India, China, Turkey, and Russia have come up with regulations that outrightly ban the usage of social media websites in particular within their jurisdictions.
All these rules governing the use of the global internet have resulted in a stark decline in internet freedom. It’s a real pity that internet freedom score around the world has decreased for the sixth consecutive year.
Netizens continue to live under government surveillance
According to a report published by Freedom House, the ‘internet freedom’ is on a downward spiral for the last six years. The data for the report was gathered from 65 countries, where 88% of netizens reside. The report gives some important insights into how governments and surveillance agencies go about targeting people to get access to their personal information over the web.
Governments in China, Iran and Syria have promulgated strict laws to monitor users’ online activities, most notably on social media websites and messaging apps including Facebook, Twitter, Viber, and WhatsApp. The messaging apps have been the hardest hit by the brutal laws pertaining to the limitations that netizens have to endure in the wake of bans.
The report highlights China as the chief abuser of social media rights and internet freedom. Well, you still can’t get through the Great Firewall of China, that’s for sure.
Surprisingly, for the United States of America, the internet freedom score has increased. This should be taken as a much needed relief, in the wake of Freedom Act, coming into force, and limiting the data collection practices of National Security Agency (NSA).
An interesting statistic to note is that out of 65 countries, the internet freedom scores declined in 34 countries, which is slightly more than 50% of the total countries included in the report.
The report presents some glaring statistics about the governmental wrath on secure messaging apps and social media websites in particular. In 2016, 24 countries blocked access to social media websites, which is nine more than the last year’s figure that stood at 15.
And the worst hit of all the apps is WhatsApp. The popular messaging app is currently blocked in 12 countries – mainly in China, Middle East, and Africa. What about end-to-end encryption technology then? Is it worthless?
Well, the international community should realize the perils of social media blockade. It’s not fair. The co-author of the report, Sanja Kelly, has rightly voiced the concerns regarding the roadblocks hurting the internet freedom around the world.
“Although the blocking of these tools affects everyone, it has an especially harmful impact on human rights defenders, journalists, and marginalized communities who often depend on these apps to bypass government surveillance,” Sanja Kelly, director and co-author of the Freedom on the Net 2016 report, said in a statement Monday.
The report is an eye-opener for all the concerned human rights advocates.
How to bypass government censorship? Ivacy VPN to the rescue
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