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Freedom House: Freedom of the Net 2013

October 3, 2013

"Global internet freedom has been in decline for the three consecutive years tracked by this project, and the threats are becoming more widespread."

In June 2013, revalations made by former contractor Edward Snowden about the U.S. government's secret surveillance activities took center stage in the American and international media. As part of its antiterrorism effort, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been collection communications data on Americans and foreigners on a much greater scale than previously thought. However, while the world's attention is focused on Snowden and U.S. surveillance—prompting important discussions about the legitimacy and legality of such measures—disconcerting efforts to both monitor and censor internet activity have been taking place in other parts of the world with increased frequency and sophistication. In fact, global internet freedom has been in decline for three consecutive years tracked by this project, and the threats are becoming more widespread.

Of particular concern are the proliferation of laws, regulations, and directives to restrict online speech; a dramatic increase in arrests of individuals for something they posted online; legal cases and intimidation against social-media users; and a rise in surveillance. In authoritarian states, these tools are often used to censor and punish users who engage in online speech that is deemed critical of the government, royalty, or the dominant religion. In some countries, even blogging about environmental pollution, posting a video of a cynical rap song, or tweeting about the town mayor's poor parking could draw the police to a user's door. Although democratic states generally do not target political speech, several have sought to implement disproportionate restrictions on content they perceive as harful or illegal, such as pornography, hate speech, and pirated media.

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