According to Freedom House, global internet freedom has declined for the 8th consecutive year. In fact, the pro-democracy organization stated that out of the 65 countries analyzed, 26 saw a significant decline since June 2017. Only 19 countries show a slight improvement with their web freedom, a mediocre number at best. Read on for the full story.
The Global Internet – 8 Years of Consecutive Decline in Freedom
The Global Internet and a Lack of Freedom – The Full Story
We’re used to hearing terrifying tales of internet censorship from countries known for their staunch anti-net freedom beliefs. However, 2018 wasn’t a good year for the global internet. Here are the 4 main headlines that Freedom House sited for the decline in the global internet freedom:
- A decline in internet freedom in the United States.
- Digital Authoritarianism training offered by China.
- Increase in the curbing of online dissent under the umbrella of “fake news”.
- An increase in government demand for control over personal data.
The United States’ Decline
According to Freedom House, one of the biggest hits that the internet freedom in the US took was the enactment of 2 specific laws: The CLOUD Act and the reauthorized Section 702 of FISA.
- The CLOUD Act: The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, signed into law on Match 23rd, expands law enforcement’s ability to access user data held by companies. Now, law enforcement can request access to user data even if the company stores it overseas. Additionally, the act also authorizes foreign governments to “directly petition US companies to hand over user data.”
- Section 702 of FISA: This law gives the NSA authority to practice Upstream and Downstream collection of user data. The NSA can access this data either directly from US tech companies or through the undersea cable infrastructure. While the law basically limits the targets of the collected data to foreign citizens, any American communication “incidentally swept up” is also collected and stored.
Digital Authoritarianism Training
Having established itself as a leader in internet censorship and surveillance, China now offers its “cyber management” skills as a service to other countries. 36 of the countries mentioned in the Freedom House report were seen sending officials to China to attend training workshops in internet management. In fact, China is now also providing technology for authoritarian governments that want to utilize the Chinese Internet model.
Some of the countries that are responding positively to China’s training include the Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Pakistan, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Mexico, and Zimbabwe.
The Curb of Online Dissent
The 2016 US elections brought the world more than the controversial president Trump. So much so that the term “Fake News” is now an umbrella term. Now, many countries are using the term to censor, monitor, and even shut down media outlets and online dissidents. In fact, 17 countries either passed or proposed laws that directly restrict online media under the pretext of “fake news”. Some of these countries include Egypt, Venezuela, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, and the Philippines. Other countries, like India and Sri Lanka, even shut down the internet completely in attempts to curb the mass hysteria caused by fake news articles.
Increase Control of Personal Data
Finally, Freedom House reports that some authorities are vying for less privacy-centered regulations in order to take full control of the data of their citizens. Intelligence agencies, specifically those of the Five Eyes, are now pressuring tech companies to install back-doors that “voluntarily establish lawful access solutions”. To make things worse, more countries are establishing laws and regulations that force ISPs, tech companies, and service providers to store data for longer periods of time. Additionally, laws that facilitate the government’s access to that stored data are also increasing.
Here are some examples:
- Australia: A surveillance bill is being drafted that can force companies to build backdoors in encrypted apps.
- India: The 2018 data protection framework draft forces all companies to store personal data on Indian soil.
- Italy: Telecom operators now have to store communications data for up to 6 years.
- Cuba: Encrypted tech completely banned.
- Morocco: Encrypted tech banned except with authorization from the military.
The Global Internet – Final Thoughts
There you have it, a quick sum up of Freedom House’s 2018 report on the global internet’s net freedom. From the way things look like, we can only expect another year of anti-privacy laws ahead of us. While we can’t advise you on how to protect the internet in general, we can give you a tip to protect your own connection. Always make sure to have and use a VPN, like ExpressVPN, when connecting to the internet. This way, you’ll make sure that you’re maintaining your privacy, security, and anonymity.