For the fifth year in a row, global internet freedom continued its downward trend in 2015, with more governments censoring information of public interest while simultaneously expanding surveillance and thwarting privacy tools, according to the annual assessment by the U.S.-based Freedom House released Wednesday.
Since June 2014, 32 of the 65 countries assessed in (pdf) saw internet freedom deteriorate, according to the nonprofit, which monitors digital rights and advocates for democracy. Notable declines were documented in Libya, France, and—for the second year running—Ukraine, amid what Freedom House describes as “its territorial conflict and propaganda war with Russia.”
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While the end is the same—increasing erosion of privacy and human rights afforded by a free and open internet—the means have shifted slightly.
“Governments are increasingly pressuring individuals and the private sector to take down or delete offending content, as opposed to relying on blocking and filtering,” explained Sanja Kelly, project director for Freedom on the Net. “They know that average users have become more technologically savvy and are often able to circumvent state-imposed blocks.”
According to the report, authorities in 42 of the 65 countries assessed required private companies or internet users to restrict or delete web content dealing with political, religious, or social issues, up from 37 the previous year. Criticism of the authorities was most likely to attract censorship or punishment, while news about conflict, corruption allegations against top government or business figures, opposition websites, and satire were also subject to online censorship in over one third of the countries examined.
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