Security "abuses" by the world's governments since the 11 September attacks in the US have increasingly put the internet under the control of the security services, according to a journalist lobby group.
Reporters without Borders said that internet freedom has been cut back over the past year.
Robert Ménard, the group's secretary general, said that the internet can be included in the "collateral damage" caused by the "tragic events" of last September and the drive for tighter security.
"Many governments used the pretext of the anti-terrorism drive to curb basic freedoms or crack down on their domestic opponents using the internet," he explained.
The group's report, entitled The Internet on Probation, details the concerted attacks on internet freedoms around the world over the past year.
It claims that Western democracies are now posing a "new threat" to citizens' freedoms with an arsenal of new security measures.
The report pointed out that many countries had introduced facilities for the general retention of data about people's email traffic and internet activity, turning internet service providers and telcos into "a potential arm of the police".
"Access to this mass of information is being given with alarming ease to police and intelligence services," it said. "This unprecedented abuse means that all citizens are theoretically under suspicion."
The report cites a series of steps that have reduced internet freedoms, including UN Security Council Resolution 1373 on fighting terrorism; the USA Patriot Act passed by the US Congress; and the amendment of the European Union's rules on the protection of electronic data.
"The US, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the G8 nations have all challenged cyber freedoms over the past year," said Ménard.
"Yet these are countries with deep-rooted secular and democratic traditions whose citizens fought long and hard to win their right to free expression, the confidentiality of mail and the right of journalists not to reveal their sources."
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