Internet freedom is being eroded across the globe

A new report from Freedom House, a watchdog dedicated to promoting the cause of freedom across the globe, has been published with some interesting observations on how free various nations are in terms of their internet access.

The Freedom on the Net 2014 report, spotted by Mashable, involved evaluating some 65 countries, and the bad news is that over half of them, 36 to be precise, actually dipped in their levels of online freedom between May 2013 and 2014.

The report also observed an overall increase in pressure from governments on independent news websites – the sites which have heretofore been among the few uncensored sources of news in some countries. And more people have been arrested and/or prosecuted for digital activities than ever before.

Freedom House noted: “Dozens of citizen journalists were attacked while reporting on conflict in Syria and anti-government protests in Egypt, Turkey and Ukraine. Other governments stepped up licensing and regulation for web platforms.”

Arrests due to online messages concerning political or social issues were found in 38 of the 65 studied countries, and this was most prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa, where detentions of citizens occurred in 10 of the 11 nations examined.

Freedom House also found that 41 of the countries had passed legislation (or at least proposed it) to penalise “legitimate forms of speech online”, and to expand government surveillance powers (no surprise there).

The report observed an increase in sophisticated, targeted malware attacks on human rights groups and critics of governments, with such attacks being seen in half of the nations evaluated.

It makes for pretty bleak reading in many respects, though on a more positive note, Freedom House did state: “Despite overall declines in global internet freedom, pushback by civil society was amplified this year by reactions to the NSA surveillance revelations. Awareness of the threats to fundamental rights expanded beyond civil society, as ordinary users around the world became more engaged in securing their privacy and freedom of expression online.”

“In select cases, long-running internet freedom campaigns finally garnered the necessary momentum to succeed.”