Internet freedom is dying

Internet freedom is going the way of the dodo, the dinosaur and the MP3 player thanks to government enforcers, according to a new study.

A report, penned by the advocacy group Freedom House, looked at online trends in 60 countries.

It noted that despite a pushback from activists that successfully blocked some governments’ repressive laws, internet freedom plummeted in the last year.

In 35 of the countries monitored, governments had expanded their legal and technical spying powers over the internet.

Broad surveillance, new laws controlling web content and growing arrests of social media users drove a worldwide decline in internet freedom in the past year, the report concluded.

Iceland has the most internet freedom while China, Cuba and Iran had the least.

Declines in online freedom were led by three democracies – Brazil, India and the United States.

Revelations by Edward Snowden showed that changes in US online freedom were eroding faster than Blackberry’s bottom line.

However, the US still made it to fourth in Freedom House’s list.

Some of the governments have acted against the internet because social media was used to organise national protests.

Since May 2012, 24 countries have adopted some form of legislation restricting internet freedom. Bangladesh imposed a prison sentence of 14 years on a group of bloggers for writing posts critical of Islam.

Bahrain has arrested 10 people for “insulting the king on Twitter,” a teen in Morocco was jailed for 18 months for “attacking the nation’s sacred values” over a Facebook post that ridiculed the king. A woman in India was arrested for “liking” a friend’s Facebook status, the report said.

Sanja Kelly, project director for Freedom on the Net at Freedom House said that blocking and filtering remain the preferred methods of censorship in many countries, but governments are increasingly looking at who is saying what online and finding ways to punish them.

Laws restricting online freedom were blocked with a combination of pressure from advocates, lawyers, businesses, politicians and the international community, the report says.

This is the third consecutive year internet freedom has declined, according to Freedom House.