SCORE CHANGE EXPLANATIONS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net IRAN Iran showed the greatest decline among the countries Freedom on the Net 2009: 76 (Not Free) surveyed, placing it as the worst performer in this Freedom on the Net 2011: 89 (Not Free) edition. Since the protests that followed disputed Trajectory: Significant decline presidential elections in June 2009, the Iranian authorities have waged an active campaign against internet freedom, employing extensive and sophisticated methods of control that go well beyond simple content filtering, though this too has become more severe since the election. Tactics employed include deliberately slowing internet speeds at critical times to make basic online activities difficult and ordering blogging service providers inside Iran to remove “offensive” posts. The regime has also sought to counter critical content and online organizing efforts by extending state propaganda into the digital sphere: over 400 news websites are either directly or indirectly supported by the state. Since June 2009, an increasing number of bloggers have been threatened, arrested, tortured, and kept in solitary confinement, and at least one blogger died in custody. Over 50 bloggers and online activists have been arrested, and a dozen remained in detention at the end of 2010. The Iranian authorities have taken a range of measures to monitor online communications, and a number of protesters who were put on trial after the election were indicted for their activities on Facebook and Balatarin, a Persian site that allows users to share links and news. A group calling itself the Iranian Cyber Army, later found to be associated with the Iranian authorities, also managed to hack a number of opposition and news sites with a mix of technical methods and forgery.
KENYA Although a lack of infrastructure and high costs still Freedom on the Net 2009: 34 (Partly Free) hamper connectivity for many Kenyans, the installation Freedom on the Net 2011: 32 (Partly Free) of two undersea cables in 2009 dramatically improved Trajectory: Slight improvement bandwidth to 13 times the speed from the previous year. Since 2008, there have been no confirmed incidents of government filtering or interference with online communication, despite earlier fears that the authorities might seek to impose greater controls after the internet was used as a channel for spreading hate speech during election-related violence. In January 2009, the government passed a controversial Communications Amendment Act, ignoring warnings from civil society that it could hinder free expression.
MALAYSIA By 2009, over 55 percent of the total population in Freedom on the Net 2009: 41 (Partly Free) Malaysia accessed the internet. In the watershed general Freedom on the Net 2011: 41 (Partly Free) elections of March 2008, the ruling National Front (BN) Trajectory: No change coalition lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time since 1969. The use of the internet for political mobilization and news dissemination was widely seen as contributing to the opposition’s electoral gains. In both the run-up to and aftermath of the elections, many observers sensed that the government and ruling coalition had recognized the potential political impact of the internet and had therefore grown more determined to control it. Throughout 2009 and 2010, a number of bloggers faced legal harassment, SCORE CHANGE EXPLANATIONS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net intimidation, fines, and brief periods of detention, though none were imprisoned. Many of these cases involve individuals who had been critical of Malaysian royalty, while others were detained over satirical content. The government also made a more concerted effort to influence public opinion by establishing its own presence online and several online news outlets and opposition-related websites faced cyberattacks.
However, more systemic forms of censorship, such as technical filtering, were not implemented.
RUSSIA With the tightening of traditional media controls since Freedom on the Net 2009: 49 (Partly Free) 2000, the internet has become Russia’s last relatively Freedom on the Net 2011: 52 (Partly Free) uncensored platform for public debate. However, even Trajectory: Notable decline as access conditions have improved, internet freedom has corroded. In the last two years, the country’s first high-profile cases of technical blocking were reported, while tactics for proactively manipulating conversations in the online sphere were refined. Regional blocking, whereby a website is blocked in some areas but remains available elsewhere in the country, was particularly evident. In one example of the phenomenon, a regional network provider in December 2010 temporarily blocked users from accessing an environmentalist website, allegedly because the site initiated a petition to dismiss a local mayor. Russian bloggers also faced increasing intimidation: at least 25 cases of blogger harassment by the authorities occurred in 2009 and 2010, including 11 arrests. In addition, several newspaper websites experienced cyberattacks, typically in connection with articles that could seriously influence offline events. At least blogs suffered hacking attacks during the coverage period.
SOUTH AFRICA Digital media freedom continues to be respected in South Freedom on the Net 2009: 24 (Free) Africa. Access to the internet has improved, with more Freedom on the Net 2011: 26 (Free) people having an option to access the internet from their Trajectory: Slight decline mobile telephones than from computers, though the majority of the population is unable to benefit from internet access. While internet content remains largely free of government censorship, a recent amendment to the Films and Publications Act of 1996 has raised fears that controversial content could be restricted. The amendment, which was passed into law in 2009, requires that every print and online publication that is not a recognized newspaper be submitted for classification to the government-controlled Film and Publications Board if it includes depictions of sexual or disrespectful content. Other areas of concern include lack of parliamentary oversight in relation to interception orders and lack of transparency surrounding take-down notices, though there were no known instances of such requests targeting politically relevant content.
TUNISIA Since the government tightly controls traditional media, Freedom on the Net 2009: 76 (Not Free) the internet has emerged as a comparatively open forum Freedom on the Net 2011: 81 (Not Free) for airing political and social opinions. As internet Trajectory: Notable decline penetration grew, reaching 34 percent of the population by 2009, the regime of former President Ben Ali SCORE CHANGE EXPLANATIONS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net responded by creating a multilayered censorship apparatus that was among the world’s most sophisticated.
Despite an already robust system in place, in 2009 and especially in 2010, censorship expanded and became increasingly arbitrary. Several human rights activists and online journalists were arbitrarily detained, monitored and harassed, while websites were subject to targeted technical attacks, sometimes causing deletion of large amounts of content. Conditions further deteriorated after an unemployed fruit vendor set himself on fire in later December 2010 to protest joblessness, sparking country-wide protests, along with calls for political reform and greater employment opportunities. Social media sites such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, as well as various blogs, played an important role in providing independent information and analysis, spreading the protesters’ demands, and showing videos of demonstrations across the country. This, in turn, resulted in the government’s increased efforts to dismantle networks of online activists, hack into their social networking and blogging accounts, conduct extensive online surveillance, and disable activists’ online profiles and blogs.
TURKEY Internet and mobile-telephone use in Turkey has grown Freedom on the Net 2009: 42 (Partly Free) significantly in recent years, surpassing one third of the Freedom on the Net 2011: 45 (Partly Free) population in 2009, though access remains a challenge Trajectory: Notable decline in some parts of the country. Since 2001, the government has taken considerable legal steps to limit access to certain information, including some political content. According to various estimates, there were over 5,000 blocked websites as of July 2010, an increase from 2008, spurring street demonstrations against internet censorship. In addition, certain applications, particularly file-sharing sites like YouTube, Last.fm, and Metacafe, as well as some Google-related services, have been repeatedly blocked. The YouTube block was eventually lifted in November 2010, but only after disputed videos were removed or made unavailable within the country. Despite a restrictive legal environment, the Turkish blogosphere is vibrant and diverse.
Bloggers have critiqued even sensitive government policies and sought to raise public awareness about censorship and surveillance practices, yielding at least one parliamentary inquiry into the latter.
UNITED KINGDOM The United Kingdom has high levels of internet Freedom on the Net 2009: 23 (Free) penetration, and online free expression is generally Freedom on the Net 2011: 25 (Free) respected. However, both the government and private Trajectory: Slight decline parties have presented challenges to free speech in connection with antiterrorism efforts, public order, and intellectual property. The biggest recent controversy was the adoption of the Digital Economy Act in April 2010. The law allows for the blocking of websites and the cutting off of user accounts based on claims of intellectual-property rights violations. Free expression advocates also complain that procedures for blocking and removing content related to pornography and terrorism are not transparent, clear, or supported by an adequate appeals process. In efforts to combat terrorism, the government has taken measures against users who post or download information perceived as a security threat, including one case of a man convicted for using Twitter to express dismay at the closing of a local airport and writing that he would blow up the airport if it did not reopen within a week. The newly elected coalition government has promised to review and repeal a number of laws that negatively affect online rights, including expansively interpreted libel laws.
SCORE CHANGE EXPLANATIONS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net COUNTRY REPORTS COUNTRY REPORTS FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net AUSTRALIA 2009 POPULATION: 22 million INTERNET FREEDOM n/a Free INTERNET PENETRATION 2009: 75 percent STATUS WEB 2.0 APPLICATIONS BLOCKED: No Obstacles to Access n/a SUBSTANTIAL POLITICAL CENSORSHIP: No Limits on Content n/a BLOGGERS/ONLINE USERS ARRESTED: No Violations of User Rights n/a PRESS FREEDOM STATUS: Free Total n/a INTRODUCTION Although Australia enjoys affordable, high-quality access to the internet and other digital media, recent amendments to surveillance legislation and proposals to implement censorship through directives to internet-service providers (ISPs) have raised concerns about privacy and freedom of expression.1 Draft legislation was proposed in 2010 that would require ISPs to filter illicit content and retain data on users’ online activities. However, following the election of a new government, as of December 2010, these plans had been put on hold.
In 1989, Australia’s Research and Education Network (AARNet) made the first internet connection with a 56 kilobit per second satellite link between the University of Melbourne and the University of Hawaii.2 Today, the same connection to the United States is 200,000 times faster, and with the development of the high-speed National Broadband Network (NBN), all Australians, including those in more remote areas, will soon enjoy connection speeds near 100 megabits per second.3 There were over 9.1 million active For a comprehensive overview of the legislative history of censorship in Australia see Libertus.net, “Australia’s Internet Censorship System,” http://libertus.net/censor/netcensor.html, accessed June 2010. See also Australian Privacy Foundation, http://privacy.org.au, accessed June 2010.
Australia’s Research and Education Network (AARNet), “AARNet Salutes the 20th Anniversary of the Internet in Australia,” news release, November 26, 2009, http://www.aarnet.edu.au/Article/NewsDetail.aspxid=173;
Roger Clarke, “A Brief History of the Internet in Australia,” May 5, 2001, http://www.rogerclarke.com/II/OzIHist.html;
Roger Clarke, “Origins and Nature of the Internet in Australia,” January 29, 2004, http://www.rogerclarke.com/II/OzI04.html.
Australian Government, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, “National Broadband Network,” http://www.dbcde.gov.au/broadband/national_broadband_network, accessed June 2010.
AUSTRALIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net internet subscribers in Australia at the end of 2009 and nearly 16 million internet users, a penetration rate of approximately 75 percent.OBSTACLES TO ACCESS Access to the internet and other digital media in Australia is widespread, almost ubiquitous.
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