US think tank Freedom House has claimed that internet freedom is declining across the world, with authoritarian governments following China's example and using surveillance and censorship to repress public dissent.
Freedom House, founded in 1941, is known for conducting research on democracy and human rights. Every year, the organisation releases three reports: ‘Freedom in the World', 'Freedom of the Net', and ‘Freedom of the Press'.
The ‘Freedom of the Net' report evaluates the state of personal freedom on the internet and digital authoritarianism in 65 countries, representing approximately early 87 per cent of the world's internet users.
According to the ‘Freedom of the Net' 2018 report, of the 65 nations surveyed, internet freedom declined in 26 countries during the period from June 2017 to May 2018.
China is judged the worst abuser of internet freedom in the world. What is particularly concerning, Freedom House claims, is that many other countries have also started using the Chinese model of controlling information and conducting intrusive web surveillance.
The report also accuses China of attempting to expand its model to other countries by training foreign officials on regulating internet and offering technology, such as data analytics tools, facial recognition software, and telecoms hardware, to undemocratic governments.
The Chinese government is also accused of demanding foreign companies conform to its content policies outside of China, such as not recognising the independence of Taiwan.
Notably, Freedom House's evaluation of the state of internet freedom also deteriorated in the US following a recent rash of changes to internet regulation, including the renewal of intelligence agencies' online spying powers and the alleged surge of fake news targeted at voters in the country.
In June this year, too, the US Federal Communications Commission revoked net neutrality rules - only implemented following a long battle in 2015 - that would have legally mandated that internet providers don't prioritise internet traffic based on source, type, and destination.
Despite the declining state of internet freedom in several nations, improvements were seen in 19 countries, including the Gambia and Armenia. Gambia jumped to the category of "partly free" from "not free" following the end of dictator Yahya Jammeh's 23-year rule in early 2017, which enabled the new government to lift a series of restrictions.
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