A study from nonprofit organization Freedom House on the Rise of Digital Authoritarianism analyzed internet freedom in 65 countries around the globe from June 2017 to May 2018. Of the countries assessed, Freedom House found that 26 have seen an overall decline in internet freedom since June 2017, compared with 19 that registered net improvements.
The in-depth study found that China with its Great Firewall remains the worst abuser of internet freedom through censorship and surveillance. Specifically, the country’s new Cybersecurity Law centralized all internet policy within the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) in 2018. It aims to stop transmission of banned content, to host all Chinese data within the country, to crack down on VPNs, and to continue to release more granular directives policing digital life.
The biggest declines in internet freedom occurred in Egypt, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Venezuela. Half of those declines—which coincided with rises in disinformation—occurred following elections of more authoritarian leaders.
Other countries in which internet freedom remains poor amid widespread censorship and clampdowns on free speech include Cuba, Iran, and Russia. The latter has increased data sovereignty and is actively working to create a government-controlled web that is completely disconnected from the rest of the internet; Russia is already testing it.
This global decline in internet