Freedom House’s 2015 Freedom on the Net report has been released and offers a stark, and concerning, view on the current status of online freedoms. Out of the 65 countries assessed, the report concludes that Internet freedom in the world has declined for the fifth consecutive year. Governments that had already expanded their arsenal of tools for controlling the online sphere are now strengthening their application of these methods.
Key trends identified in the report include:
- While blocking and filtering are still widespread tactics, the growing use of circumvention tools and encryption has made them less effective. Unfortunately, governments around the world have moved to limit such tools on the basis that they may be used by terrorists and criminals. The Internet Society has already expressed the view that users should be able to encrypt their data and communications.
- Many governments are further shifting the burden of censorship to private companies by pressing them to remove content, even pushing them to proactively monitor their networks. Smaller local companies have little choice but to comply, whereas some international businesses have been more successful in addressing some government requests without resorting to outright takedown. The Internet Society doesn’t believe that companies’ primary role should be to police content online.
- Surveillance has been on the rise globally, with governments in 14 of 65 countered having passed new laws to increased surveillance over the past year. Related to this, bans and restrictions on encryption and anonymity tools are being more common. The Internet Society believes that these developments hurt Internet users’ trust.