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Freedom on the Net: a global assessment of Internet and digital media
Sanja Kelly & Sarah Cook (ed.)
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The study evaluates the level of internet and mobile phone freedom experienced by average users and activists in a sample of 15 countries across 6 regions. It is based on a newly developed set of 19 indicators.
The index addresses a range of factors that might affect freedom, including the state of telecommunications infrastructure, government restrictions on access to technology, the regulatory framework for service providers, censorship and content control, the legal environment, surveillance, and extralegal attacks on users or content producers.
The dynamic increase digital media use worldwide accompanied by more systematic and sophisticated methods of control is the core finding of this study. Other findings include:
Seven countries had blocked the so-called Web 2.0 applications advanced services such as the social-networking site Facebook, the video-sharing site YouTube, and the blog-hosting site Blogspot - either temporarily or permanently during the 2007-08 coverage period.
Censorship and control of online content was present in some form in all 15 countries studied, with authorities in 11 targeting political content in at least one instance. This takes a number of forms which include not only technical filtering, but also manual removal of content as a result of government directives, intimidation, requests from private actors, or judicial decisions.
Methods of control and censorship that were developed to restrict content in traditional media, particularly in the legal sphere, are beginning to seep into the new media environment, though they are not yet as common or extensive as in the older context.
Even in highly repressive countries, citizens are making use of ICTs in inventive ways in order to create and disseminate news and information, add to the diversity of viewpoints and opinions, perform a watchdog role, and mobilise civic groups, in order to address particular political, social, and economic issues.
Internet freedom is increasingly undermined by legal harassment, opaque filtering procedures, and expanding surveillance. Threats to internet freedom are growing and have become more diverse, both in the array of countries that impose restrictions and in the range of methods employed.