Internet freedom is increasingly threatened and there are already 11 consecutive years in which this trend has worsened.
That is the main conclusion of the report
Freedom in the network in 2021
, prepared by the NGO Freedom House, which analyzes the situation in 70 countries and rates from 0 to 100 points the restrictions that citizens have to use the internet freely in each place.
China ranks for the seventh time as the worst-off country (with only 10 points), surpassed by Iran, Myanmar and Cuba.
Who tops the list is Iceland, with 96 points, followed by Estonia, Canada and Costa Rica.
Myanmar has suffered the largest drop on record by Freedom House: 14 points since 2020. The cause?
The military coup that it suffered in February and the consequent restrictions and blockages of access to the network and mobile services.
The debate over censorship in social networks, a double-edged sword
Macron, in the crosshairs of the Pegasus spy program contracted by Morocco
In 2020, Freedom House already warned of the negative effect of the pandemic on internet freedom: governments had the pretext of protecting public health and avoiding disinformation when they blocked communications. Although this trend has continued in countries such as Singapore and Cambodia, other actions have gained weight. On the one hand, the use by governments of spying technology aimed at network users. Of the 70 countries analyzed, 45 have had access
to this type of program,
that have allowed them to extract data from the population without their consent. NSO Group, the Israeli company that develops the Pegasus program, reappears on the scene, with which information has been stolen from leaders such as Emmanuel Macron and Mohamed VI, as well as journalists and activists from around the world. This and other private companies have provided the necessary tools to violate the privacy of users on the network.
Not everything in the report is negative: Taiwan, analyzed in this report for the first time, has obtained fifth place in the ranking, ahead of Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
To counter the influence of the Chinese government, it has developed a series of highly innovative regulations that guarantee its inhabitants a cyber environment where they can express themselves freely and without blockages, according to the report.
China and Myanmar have not been the only ones to fare badly in the results: Belarus has suffered a seven-point drop in its freedoms compared to 2020 due to the closure of websites opposed to Aleksandr Lukashenko's government and due to access restrictions to the internet triggered by protests after last year's elections that Western powers called fraudulent.
According to Freedom House calculations, in the last year the number of users residing in countries where attacks or murders have occurred as a result of
activities has increased by 8%
78% of the almost four billion users who there on the internet. 75% live in places where those who post political, social or religious content are arrested. Most of the arrests in the countries studied resulted from posts on Facebook.
Spain is not among those 70 countries examined, but, taking into account the classification made by Freedom House between free, partially free and unfree countries, our country could be in the first group, along with the rest of the neighboring states. Even so, Amnesty International warns that, since the approval of the Law for the Protection of Citizen Security in 2015, they have "documented a negative effect on freedom of expression and the space for online freedom."
Daniel Canales, Amnesty researcher in Spain, assures that the NGO's concerns "have to do with the criminal code and the crimes of glorifying terrorism, insults to the crown, etc., and the fact that criminal proceedings are being opened. to musicians, artists or users of social networks for song lyrics and tweets that could be offensive to a part of the population, but which are protected by freedom of expression. '' As he explains, the problem, beyond the criminal process itself, would be the effect it could have on citizens: '' The message is being sent to them that certain expressions will not be tolerated. The European Court of Human Rights has already spoken of the deterrent effect and the consequent self-censorship when publishing on the network that can occur. ''
One of the main questions that Freedom House raises in its report is the fact that big technology companies have the power to arbitrarily block users, as happened last January with Donald Trump. That action sparked a complex debate about censorship that has only grown in importance this year. Russia's was one of the first governments to react and already in January announced a law that would impose fines on these large companies for illegally blocking users. Other countries, such as India and Turkey, are pressuring large companies to remove content and accounts that governments consider dangerous or criticize certain aspects of the administration.In Brazil, a law was approved in early September that will prevent technology companies from moderating content and censoring users without the endorsement of a court.
At the time when the former US president was vetoed, Amnesty International assured that "Facebook and the other companies have enormous power to decide what can and cannot be said on their platforms," which is why a regulation by governments. Of course, to combat misinformation and, in the case of the pandemic, denial regarding the coronavirus, Canales suggests that "it should not be done through mere censorship and to prevent freedom of expression, but rather that the authorities They can establish reliable and truthful information systems that they can provide to the public. ''
Freedom House not only analyzes the situation in the 70 countries throughout the year, but also makes a series of recommendations to the governments, such as protecting the privacy and security of users, guaranteeing transparency and diversity on the internet and, in Ultimately, protect global freedom on the web.
He advises society in general to inform others about the danger of censorship, to work together with legislators and companies and to go to court to denounce censorship and blockages on the network.
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