Improved surveillance, takedown of opposition websites for “illegal content” and paid pro-government commentators are among the increasingly sophisticated tools used by authorities to restrict internet freedom, a new report claims.
The 2013 Freedom on the Net report, compiled by non-profit Freedom House, says that 34 out of the 60 countries it surveyed suffered a falloff in internet freedom over the past year.
Iran, Cuba, China and Syria were ranked as countries with the greatest restrictions. China, which blocks millions of websites and employs thousands-strong armies of censors, “led the way in expanding an elaborate technological apparatus for system internet censorship, while further increasing offline coercion and arrests to deter freedom of expression online.”
Iceland, Estonia and Germany took the podium places in the ranking, followed by the United States.
Nonetheless, the US was castigated for a “troubling decline” in internet freedom, largely as a result of wide-ranging surveillance practices revealed through Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks.
“Critics have raised concern that the secret NSA programs may violate the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects people inside the US (citizens and non-citizens alike) from unreasonable search and seizure, as well as human rights enshrined in international agreements,” stated the report.
In 35 of the 60 countries examined, the government has “either obtained more sophisticated surveillance technology, increased the scope of people monitored, or passed a new law giving it greater monitoring authority.”