Internet freedoms have been eroded for the fourth year in a row, as more countries introduce introduce draconian censorship measure, according to a new report.
In the Freedom on the Net 2014 report, independent watchdog Freedom House found that online freedoms had declined in 36 of the 65 countries assessed between May 2013 and May 2014, as governments around the world blocked social networks, increased digital surveillance, and intimidated and arrested journalists and digital activists.
The report measured internet freedoms in each country on three scales: obstacles to Internet access, limits on content and violations of user rights.
Iran remained the worst offender in the report, with authorities arresting internet users for simply making a YouTube video dancing to Pharrell’s hit song “Happy” and jailing others who promoted Sufism online.
Many hoped that President Hassan Rouhani would loosen internet restrictions in Iran when he took office in 2013, but while his administration has embraced social media, Iranian citizens are still blocked from accessing Twitter and Facebook.
In Syria, the ongoing civil war has meant that access to the internet is limited, and the government and rebel groups regularly shut off access to prevent information of atrocities reaching the wider world.
Websites that express criticism of the government or opposition viewpoints are blocked, and citizen journalists and activists face a constant threat of kidnapping by Islamist groups and the Assad government.
The report found China to be the third worst oppressor of internet freedom, with access to a wide array of sites blocked by the “Great Firewall of China” and the Communist party officially describing the internet as a battleground of ideologies.
Chinese authorities have also jailed high profile internet activists, and regularly shut off the internet in areas where there are political disturbances.
Internet in the UK was considered to be “free” by the report, but it did mention the failure of Cameron’s porn filters and how they blocked legitimate content and how the intelligence services symbolically destroyed hard drives containing copies of leaked government documents at the offices of the Guardian.