The figure below is a graphical representation of this phenomenon, focusing on the countries in this edition where the gap between their performance on the two surveys is 10 points or greater. This difference reflects the potential pressures in both the short and long term on the space for online expression. Among the 15 are several of the states identified as “countries at risk:” Jordan, Russia, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.
* The front-row bar reflects a country's Freedom on the Net 2011 score; the back-row bar reflects the country's score on Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2010 index, which primarily assesses television, radio, print media. A green-colored bar represents a status of “Free,” a yellow-colored bar represents a status of “Partly Free,” while a purple one, the status of “Not Free.” CHARTS AND GRAPHS OF KEY FINDINGS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net INTERNET FREEDOM VS. INTERNET PENETRATION The figure below depicts the relationship between internet penetration rates and the level of digital media freedom as assessed by the Freedom on the Net 2011 study. Each point is plotted to reflect its level of internet penetration as noted in the report, as well as its performance in the survey. To minimize possible overlap among variables, the scores have been adjusted to exclude performance on the first two questions of the Freedom on the Net methodology, which assess the degree of internet access in a given society.
The resulting graph points to several typologies: A cluster of economically developed democratic states with high penetration rates and relatively high levels of internet freedom (green circle); A cluster of lower income democratic states, with relatively lower penetration rates but limited restrictions on other aspects of internet freedom (orange circle); A cluster of lower income authoritarian states, with almost no internet access, as well as heavy restrictions on other aspects of internet freedom (purple circle); A number of states with middling levels of internet penetration and a range of performance on internet freedom. Of note is a potential trajectory for the Partly Free countries in the middle, which may move towards greater repression (the high-tech, Not Free countries on the right) or better protection of free expression (the mid-penetration, Free countries on the left) as penetration rates increase (blue V pattern).
CHARTS AND GRAPHS OF KEY FINDINGS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net REGIONAL GRAPHS ASIA (0 best, 100 worst) MIDDLE EAST & NORTH AFRICA (0 best, 100 worst) CHARTS AND GRAPHS OF KEY FINDINGS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA (0 best, 100 worst) LATIN AMERICA (0 best, 100 worst) CHARTS AND GRAPHS OF KEY FINDINGS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net FORMER SOVIET UNION (0 best, 100 worst) WESTERN EUROPE & OTHERS (0 best, 100 worst) CHARTS AND GRAPHS OF KEY FINDINGS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net SCORE CHANGES AND EXPLANATIONS Among the 37 countries covered in Freedom on the Net 2011 are all 15 states that were assessed in the 2009 edition of the report. The following are explanations for score improvements and declines in this set of countries. For additional information, see individual Country Reports.
BRAZIL For a country with large social and economic disparities, Freedom on the Net 2009: 30 (Free) Brazil has made significant gains in expanding internet access Freedom on the Net 2011: 29 (Free) and mobile-phone usage. In recent years, access to the Trajectory: Slight improvement internet further improved, and the total number of users was the fourth largest in the world by 2009. Civic participation through internet media has correspondingly increased and restrictions on political campaigning via social-networking websites imposed ahead of the 2008 elections were removed for the run-up to the 2010 polls. Unlike in previous years, there were no instances of blocks on advanced web applications such as YouTube or the social-networking platform Orkut. These positive developments were slightly offset, however, by several legal and judicial actions that threatened free online expression, including cases of individual bloggers facing unreasonable defamation lawsuits, sometimes for very high amounts. Also noted was the impact of cyberattacks, as several prominent intelligence sources confirmed that a series of attacks in January 2005, September 2007, and November 2009 were responsible for blackouts.
CHINA Although China is home to the world’s largest population Freedom on the Net 2009: 79 (Not Free) of internet users—numbering 446 million by the end of Freedom on the Net 2011: 83 (Not Free) 2010—the country’s internet environment remains one of Trajectory: Notable decline the world’s most restrictive, characterized by a sophisticated, multilayered control apparatus. In 2009 and 2010, this system was further enhanced, institutionalized, and decentralized. Blocks on international applications like Facebook and the Twitter became permanent, while censorship requirements on domestic alternatives were enhanced. The authorities also imposed a months-long shutdown of internet access in the western region of Xinjiang. By the end of 2010, the Chinese internet increasingly resembled an intranet.
Many average users, isolated from international social media platforms and primarily exposed to a manipulated online information landscape, had limited knowledge of key events related to their own country, even when these make headlines around the world, a dynamic evident with the 2010 awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. In addition, the space for anonymous communication shrank and at least 70 people were in jail for internet-related reasons as of mid-2010, though the actual number of detainees is likely much higher. Tibetans, Uighurs, and Falun Gong practitioners are subject to especially harsh punishments for online activities, and two Uighurs were sentenced to life imprisonment. More than in previous years, China emerged as a key global source of cyberattacks, with targets ranging from groups reporting on Chinese human rights abuses to international financial, defense, and technology companies. The above restrictions were offset somewhat by the internet’s continued growth as a primary source of news, a forum for discussion, and a mobilization channel SCORE CHANGE EXPLANATIONS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net for many Chinese. Netizens successfully used it to challenge official misconduct, protest censorship, organize strikes, and obtain justice for ordinary citizens, while tech-savvy users employed circumvention tools to access banned sites, such as Twitter.
CUBA Cuba remains one of the world’s most repressive Freedom on the Net 2009: 88 (Not Free) environments for the internet and other information and Freedom on the Net 2011: 87 (Not Free) communication technologies (ICTs). There is almost no Trajectory: Slight improvement access to internet applications other than e-mail, and surveillance is extensive, with special software employed to monitor and control many of the island’s public internet-access points. Nevertheless, in recent years there has been a slight loosening of restrictions on the sale of computers, and important growth of mobilephone infrastructure was evident in 2009. In addition, despite the threat of detention and travel restrictions, a community of bloggers has consolidated their work, creatively using online and offline means to express opinions and spread information about conditions in the country. Cuba still has the lowest mobile-phone penetration rate in Latin America, however, and most users continue to face extremely slow connections, making the use of multimedia applications nearly impossible.
EGYPT While the Egyptian government has aggressively and Freedom on the Net 2009: 51 (Partly Free) successfully sought to expand access to the internet as Freedom on the Net 2011: 54 (Partly Free) an engine of economic growth, its security forces also Trajectory: Notable decline intensified attempts to curtail the use of new technologies for disseminating and receiving sensitive political information in 2009 and 2010. They typically employ such “low-tech” methods as intimidation, legal harassment, detentions, and real-world surveillance of online dissidents. However, in response to increased internet-based activism, particularly in advance of the November 2010 parliamentary elections, the authorities began to engage in greater censorship of online communications. Several individuals who called for political change and democratic reform saw their websites shut down and two popular Facebook groups used for organizing protests were temporarily removed. With Emergency Law provisions in place, Egypt’s legal environment remained harsh and several bloggers were detained during the coverage period, with one nearly tried before a military tribunal. In 2010, Egypt also saw the first court case in which a judge found a cybercafe owner liable for defamatory information posted online by a visitor to his shop.
ESTONIA Estonia ranks among the most wired and technologically Freedom on the Net 2009: 13 (Free) advanced countries in the world. In 2009, over 91 percent Freedom on the Net 2011: 10 (Free) of citizens filed their taxes online and Estonian identity Trajectory: Notable improvement cards were used to facilitate electronic voting during municipal and European Parliament elections. Restrictions on internet content and communications are among the lightest in the world. Nevertheless, in January 2010, a new law on online gambling came into force, requiring all domestic and foreign gambling sites to SCORE CHANGE EXPLANATIONS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net obtain a special license or face access restrictions. The most serious threat to internet freedom in Estonia emerged in late April and early May 2007, when a campaign of cyberattacks targeted various Estonian institutions and infrastructures. Given the absence of such a large-scale attack in 2009-2010, and the subsequent restrictions it posed for access to important information, Estonia’s score showed improvement during the coverage period. In addition, the experience led to increased awareness of the dangers of cyberattacks and a greater policy focus on improving technical competencies to make the internet more secure.
GEORGIA Use of the internet and related technologies has grown Freedom on the Net 2009: 43 (Partly Free) rapidly in Georgia in recent years, with internet Freedom on the Net 2011: 35 (Partly Free) penetration surpassing the 30 percent mark in 2009, Trajectory: Significant improvement partly the result of lower prices. There were no reports of government censorship during the coverage period and users were able to freely visit any website around the world, including advanced web applications. This was in contrast to the period in August 2008, during a brief military conflict with Russia, when the government blocked access to all Russian addresses (those using the.ru country code), including the popular blogging service LiveJournal. The filtering was eased within days and did not resurface. This change contributed to Georgia’s score improvement, along with the absence of large-scale cyberattacks by Russian hackers that also featured in the 2008 conflict. Some restrictions on internet freedom did occur in 2009 and 2010, however. In November 2009, two young students were detained after allegedly insulting the widely respected head of the Georgian Orthodox Church in videos posted on YouTube. In addition, some online media outlets reported instances of advertisers deciding to withdraw ads after the outlet published news articles overly critical of the government.
INDIA Although India’s internet penetration rate of less than Freedom on the Net 2009: 34 (Partly Free) 10 percent is low by global standards, access has Freedom on the Net 2011: 36 (Partly Free) expanded rapidly in urban areas, generating tens of Trajectory: Slight decline millions of new users in recent years. In the past, instances of the central government seeking to control communication technologies were relatively rare. However, following the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai and with an expanding Maoist insurgency, the need, desire, and ability of the Indian government to control the communications sector have grown. In 2008, Parliament passed amendments to the Information Technology Act (ITA), which came into effect in 2009 and have expanded the government’s monitoring capabilities. Pressure has also increased on private intermediaries to remove certain information. Though most requests have targeted comments that might incite communal violence, some observers have raised concerns of certain removals being unnecessary. The fairness of bidding processes surrounding the allocation of ICT resources also came into question in 2010 with the exposure of a major corruption scandal involving the licensing of second-generation (2G) mobile-phone services.
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