Freedom on the Net 2011
April 19th, 2011
11:30 AM ET

Freedom on the Net 2011

Freedom House’s Sanjay Kelly and Sarah Cook just released a new report: Freedom on the Net 2011: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media. According to the report, two electoral democracies - Turkey and South Korea - engage in substantial political censorship.

The report also notes that political censorship is rising around the world as Internet penetration expands.  And as users become more sophisticated in bypassing censorship, regimes grow more savvy about enforcing it. Here are the key take aways from the report:

Governments around the world have responded to soaring internet penetration rates and the rise of user-generated content by establishing mechanisms to block what they deem to be undesirable information. In many cases, the censorship targets content involving illegal gambling, child pornography, copyright infringement, or the incitement of hatred or violence. However, a large number of governments are also engaging in deliberate efforts to block access to information related to politics, social issues, and human rights.

Of the 37 countries examined, the governments of 15 were found to engage in substantial blocking of politically relevant content. In these countries, instances of websites being blocked are not sporadic or limited in scope. Rather, they are the result of an apparent national policy to restrict users’ access to dozens, hundreds, or most often thousands of websites, including those of independent and opposition news outlets, international and local human rights groups, and individual blogs, online videos, or social-networking groups….

Two of the countries categorized by Freedom House as electoral democracies—Turkey and South Korea—were also found to engage in substantial political censorship. In Turkey, a range of advanced web applications were blocked, including the video-sharing website YouTube, which was not accessible in Turkey from May 2008 to October 2010. South Korean authorities blocked access to an estimated 65 North Korea - related sites, including the official North Korean Twitter account, launched in August 2010….

One aspect of censorship was evident across the full spectrum of countries studied: the arbitrariness and opacity surrounding decisions to restrict particular content. In most nondemocratic settings, there is little government effort to inform the public about which content is censored and why. In many cases, authorities avoid confirming that a website has been deliberately blocked and instead remain silent or cite “technical problems.”

Saudi Arabia does inform users when they try to access a blocked site, and the rules governing internet usage are clearly articulated on government portals, but as in many countries, the Saudi authorities often disregard their own guidelines and block sites at will. Even in more transparent, democratic environments, censorship decisions are often made by private entities and without public discussion, and appeals processes may be onerous, little known, or nonexistent.

The widespread use of circumvention tools has eased the impact of content censorship and at times undermined it significantly. Such tools are particularly effective in countries with a high degree of computer literacy or relatively unsophisticated blocking techniques. For example, YouTube remained the eighth most popular website among Turkish users despite being officially blocked in that country for over two years, and the number of Vietnamese Facebook users doubled from one to two million within a year after November 2009, when the site became inaccessible by ordinary means.

Users need special skills and knowledge to overcome blockages in countries such as China and Iran, where filtering methods are more sophisticated and the authorities devote considerable resources to limiting the effectiveness of circumvention tools. Still, activists with the requisite abilities managed to communicate with one another, discuss national events in an uncensored space, and transmit news and reports of human rights abuses abroad.

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Topics: Global • Internet

soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. If you think the internet in America is free

    All you have to do is look at the hi-jinks of the MPAA and RIAA to realize that the internet is far from free.

    April 19, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Reply
    • jasaltz

      Why is Canada white? They have tons of free internet!

      April 19, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Reply
      • justme

        Yeah why is Canada N/A?

        April 19, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
      • Max in RI

        If you had bothered to read the article, it indicates that only 37 countries were examined so obviously Canada wasn't one of them.

        April 19, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
      • jon

        Because no one cares about Canada.

        April 20, 2011 at 10:06 am |
      • andrew

        Internet is FARRR from free here in Canada. My bill every month is usually around $55 for 60GB at 15 MB/s. And believe me, its nowhere near that fast, and the 60GB cap limit is a huge pain in the a$$.

        April 20, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
      • john

        Andrew.. way to make Canadians look like retards.. if you bothered to actually read the article, you'd know that they weren't discussing the COST of internet service...

        April 20, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • vbscript2

      The internet in the U.S. is free for activities that are otherwise legal. If, however, you use it or any other means for stealing other people's copyrighted or patented material, viewing child porn, harrassing others, or anything else that's otherwise illegal, you'll still get busted. I'm sorry if the fact that theft is, in fact, illegal damages your ego, but fact it remains. Furthermore, even in those case, the government does not censor the internet. Particular content providers (e.g. YouTube and the like) manage the removal of illegal material from their own sites. The gov't has nothing to do with it, aside from providing the courts in which people who do illegal stuff get convicted of crimes and/or sued.

      April 20, 2011 at 9:53 am | Reply
      • u_live_where

        As a former government employee, I would say you are either very naive or you work for the government yourself. Who do you think mandates that the social network pages turn over information to them and then tells them that the decision on what to keep is in the government's hands. Plus, if you do not think you are being monitored, try sending an email of your personal opinions that the powers that be do not agree with. You WILL be called in for questioning. (Been there, have the t-shirt)

        April 20, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
      • Kenoot

        Then why did they just shut down the major poker sites? Land of the free, is that then?

        April 20, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • MisterSnow

      US does censor, and usually at corporate request. I was in Mexico recently, and you can find anything online with a Mexican IP... ANYTHING!

      April 20, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Reply
    • Barnacle Bill

      Easy to blab about freedom while taking the right of content producers to make a living away from them, while producing NOTHING on your own.

      You are a greedy little parasite.

      April 21, 2011 at 6:05 am | Reply
    • Barnacle Bill

      "the 60GB cap limit is a huge pain in the a$$."

      Yeah, that must really cut into your ability to steal from content producers.

      April 21, 2011 at 6:07 am | Reply
  2. Brickell Princess

    I smell a pile–a huge pile–of good 'ole American hypocrisy. How can you claim that the internet is free in the United States when just this week the Federal government highjacked and commandeered a bunch of poker websites!?!

    What right does the United States have to take someone's property? In this instance, their domain names and their storefronts? Especially when those are foreign entities that are operating overseas!

    Hey Bakshi, if this is your run for a green card, you ain't getting one kid!

    Search for me, find my blog, live it, love it.

    April 19, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Reply
    • JoeT

      Tweren't gambling that was a crime, it was the fraud and racketeering the sites' owners allegedly engaged in.

      April 19, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Reply
    • John

      LOL! You can't be serious. You think shutting down the poker sites was about freedom of information through the web? That article is right here on CNN. Go read it.

      April 19, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      What makes you think that Bakshi goes after a green card?

      April 20, 2011 at 3:14 am | Reply
    • james2

      It would be worth Mr. Bakshi's time to watch this video and then decide just how "free" the internet is in the United States. The US Government is more interested in money than freedom.

      April 20, 2011 at 8:23 am | Reply
    • Tree-fitty

      +1 to this.

      Corrupt DOJ shakedown FTL

      April 20, 2011 at 11:22 am | Reply
  3. alvin tostig

    Australia internet is free? Whatever happened to the great australian firewall?

    April 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Reply
    • Bill

      Actually, Australia was heavily dinged for that draft legislation (which was never implemented due to the regime change in 2010), but it still remain more free than Italy, SA, etc... You should read the report, rather than make poor assumption based on erroneous information:

      April 19, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Reply
  4. WMesser58

    All governments censor don't believe it is just Dictators and opressive governments.

    There is a lot you get censored. America isn't free unless the powers that be so dicate it and if do not believe that it is because you are the government or you drank the koolaid. 1984 has been here long before 1984.

    April 19, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Reply
    • vbscript2

      I have a degree in Computer Science and am about halfway through a Master's degree in Computer Science with a concentration in distributed systems (e.g. networked systems.) As one who actually understands how the internet works down to the specifics of the communication protocols used, I can assure you that the U.S. internet is not censored by the government. It is technically infeasible to do so. As soon as you encrypt the stream, they can't tell who you're talking to. The only way to truely censor someone on the internet is to disconnect them from it. Unless you do that, it is mathematically proven that it is impossible to differentiate between the content of encrypted streams, therefore they can't be censored. And before you bring up filtering by destination IP, look into TOR or other onion routing systems. With such systems, even the U.S. gov't has no way of knowing what the true destination IP address is.

      April 20, 2011 at 10:02 am | Reply
      • freeweaver

        vbscript, it seems that you have missed your own point. The fact that you have to encrypt and use OR's is testament to the fact that the internet is monitored and controlled. else, why would you have to do that to remain uncensored?

        illegal does in no why = wrong! in fact, everything Hitler did pre-world war 2 was first made legal in Germany. People were tricked into hurting lots of other people because they thought very much like people here, that illegal = wrong. It does not.

        Nobody, without yours or my kind of training (computer science) know how to get around these problems. and that's what the government counts on. you put in place restriction on what your average joe can look at, and you've created a wall for 90% the population. Thats all they need to do. becuase then they stll have the ability to control what 90% of the population see or hear on the internet. which in turn controls those of us who do know how to get around it. thats to say, 90% of people will think that you are doing something wrong by looking at the stuff they can't – so you should be arrested.


        April 21, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  5. Conrad Shull

    This article is guaranteed to bring out the Hate America Firsters.

    April 19, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Reply
    • Barnacle Bill

      That is what free speech is about.

      If you don't like it, leave.

      April 21, 2011 at 6:11 am | Reply
  6. Cajun_Dude

    The nut who complained about American Internet not being free and using the example of the RIAA and MPAA doesn't understand what this article is even about.
    Investigating and going after copyrighted material is protecting intellectual property, Internet Freedom deals with the free exchange of ideas – especially political ideas. It doesn't protect child pornography, fraudulent gambling websites, pirated movies.

    April 19, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Reply
    • larry

      It's not fraudulent gambling. The US just used that as a reason. Bring back our poker.

      April 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  7. larry

    How can the United States be considered free. They just shut down all the poker sites. What will they shut down next?

    April 19, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Reply
    • Blessed Geek

      You paedophiic surfer. You want freedom to view child pornography?

      April 20, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Reply
      • Jacinda

        You are such an extremist. No one spoke of looking at child pornography. And your spelling shows your lack of education.
        It is people like you who enforce your "moral" codes on others who are making the US a confined prison rather than the land of the free.

        April 24, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  8. Teresa Lopez

    I I live in Mexico, and I wonder why Mexico was listed as partly free. I have surfed all kinds of sites, regularly read Cuban newspapers online, have sent letters to various newspapers and websites that are very critical of certain Mexican politicians, as well as read many with the same kind of content. What exactly is it that the government is supposedly blocking, because I make extensive use of the internet, and visit all kinds of sites and have never had a single site blocked. I think someone didn´t do their homework....................

    April 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  9. james2

    Thanks to the FCC and telecom lobbyist, the internet in America may not be free for much longer.

    April 19, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  10. levend

    Half of Europe in NA too, I'm assuming this is more politically motivated. Don't upset the friends so put them down as NA.

    April 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Reply
  11. wheelz

    WHO?? said it was free in the first place geesh you pay to tweet, text, and service providers get you before you even log on ..... come on people, now they want to charge more for communicating ???? This is just the beginning esparcially when they have or oare forced to roll out net 2.0 due to the lack of ip addresses... wait n see

    April 19, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Reply
    • vbscript2

      What are you talking about? They aren't talking about free as in price; they're talking about the unimpeded access to information for internet users (e.g. not blocking sites with political dissention and the like.) Furthermore 'web 2.0' has nothing to do with the lack of IP addresses. That's IPv6 and it's been out and running for years. Most hosts and routers on the internet are capable of IPv4 or IPv6 nowadays. IPv6 equipment is actually cheaper to manufacture than IPv4 equipment, due to reduced processing overhead for each packet (primarily due to the lack of a checksum.)

      April 20, 2011 at 10:15 am | Reply
  12. Henry

    To all the morons with the on-line poker (sorry for the insult but shit look into things first). The reason why its illegal is becuase when you enter a debit or credit card number to the companies website technically your wagering funds that have not been paid out to that company. A poker site sends only an authorization to hold funds against your card the actual funds themselves arn't sent to the company for another 3-5 days depending on your bank. Holds can fall off ones account and go back into your available balance because of this your balance will increase and you can technically wager money you promised to another company. Even though you might have the best intetnions of paying back that financial institution the banks don't want you wagering their money period even if its yours its going thru there network. How do i know i use to get hundreds of poker calls at the bank before the government even put their nose in it. Our bank blocked it years ahead before this happened.

    April 19, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Reply
    • Jacinda

      Either way, the bank or the US government should not be able to tell me what I can spend my money on. I paid taxes when earning this money and should be able to spend it on whatever I wish.
      The banks would not have any money if the people would not have invested in the banks years ago.

      April 24, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Reply
  13. Adelina

    This map is too partial it should not call itself "global." Make a complete map on religious freedom. That will express accuracy on nations' freedom status.

    April 19, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Reply
  14. Net-trality

    Governments, including the so-called free countries of the world, want more control. I suspect those in the green areas aren't quite as free as they perceive. The governments are allowing traffic to flow but are monitoring very closely.

    We in the US seem to find out abuses of power by g-men long after they occur. Hoover started this ball rolling, probably even before he started wearing ladies undergarments.

    April 20, 2011 at 6:05 am | Reply
    • vbscript2

      While governments do indeed seek more power, as one who has studied the workings of the internet in great detail (at the graduate level,) I can assure you what you say is false. Systems like TOR make it completely impossible to track internet traffic unless you control most of the TOR routers (which no one, not even the government, does.)

      April 20, 2011 at 10:20 am | Reply
    • vbscript2

      And, even without such technical means, no one is montoring your internet traffic unless you've managed to get yourself onto a terrorist watch list or some such. It would not be even remotely feasible to monitor the internet usage of all Americans. Even using automatic detection algorithms, there aren't enough supercomputers in the world to do that.

      April 20, 2011 at 10:22 am | Reply
  15. deniz

    Deniz gechen gun sabaha karshi seni ruyamda gordum, o kadar gerchek gibiydi ki ; uyndığım an chok shashirdim...
    Son derece zor bir durum...

    April 20, 2011 at 6:33 am | Reply
  16. mahmut

    Bu sayfaiı Deniz'e de gonderdim.

    April 20, 2011 at 6:37 am | Reply
  17. thsbn

    France : for your information, please put France in yellow, as we have a new governement agency used to track and to fine the users of the downloading (music, films...) sites... this is the start of a not free Internet.

    April 20, 2011 at 7:05 am | Reply
    • Barnacle Bill

      What entitles you to free music and movies?

      April 21, 2011 at 6:14 am | Reply
      • Jacinda

        The same thing that entitled people to free information. If you do not want music or film reproduced then invest in a different method of creating and delivering them to the public.
        Should we shun people who gather rainwater and filter it without paying water bills to the city because they came up with a way to get what they need without the use of local business or government? What about windmills and power generators? Should household who use this method be raided because they are not buying into their local power company?

        April 24, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  18. chris

    does south korea's case really count? they are dealing with the government-produced propaganda of a country that abrogated the armistice and declare war on them. they have every right to block websites produced by north korea. its no different from us forbidding americans from talking with the iranian government.

    April 20, 2011 at 7:52 am | Reply
  19. svann

    Why is Canada colored white for N/A?

    April 20, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  20. HJW

    As chris above mentioned, we're really going to ding South Korea for blocking websites produced by North Korea? It's one thing if they were just blocking Pro-Communist websites. But most if not all of North Korea's websites are propaganda designed to inflict subversion in a country that it is still technically at war with.

    That and half the map is N/A. They're missing huge chunks of online infrastructure like Japan, Scandinavia, and Canada.

    Must be slow at the Freedom House, since pissed off locals are doing their job for them in the Middle East while FH sits around producing pretty meh reports about the internet.

    April 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Reply
  21. No Internet


    April 20, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Reply
  22. It Doesn't Work

    Yet another example of how prohibition does not work.

    April 20, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  23. drcid777

    Thank you for the great map. Some still equate the communist regimes with the U.S. in terms of freedom or human rights and there is no comparison

    April 20, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Reply
  24. Blessed Geek

    Free as in "freedom"? Or Free as in freedom from paying $?

    April 20, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Reply
  25. Bill

    USA should be labeled "partly free" at best.

    RIAA, MPAA, DOJ going after online poker instead of the banks that caused the recession just to name three reasons why.

    April 20, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Reply
    • Barnacle Bill

      The RIAA and MPAA have no jurisdiction over banks, you idiot.

      You have no right to free music or movies, unless those rights are granted by the person or persons who produced it.

      April 21, 2011 at 6:16 am | Reply
  26. Dipsey Doodle

    Those who boast their advanced education in computer science and technology as the basis for their superior knowledge should accept that that knowledge is obsolete as soon as they receive their degree.

    April 21, 2011 at 7:04 am | Reply
  27. phonrence

    The game enriches the spirit. Knowledge you get, remember what you learned and apply it in practice.
    This is an excellent blog post you are discussing about and i really appreciate it. It should be going on. BTW Could you write guest blog post for my blog?cooking games[/url

    September 13, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  28. Froketees

    The first two factors postulated by Aptera (1982 – after Wyer & Collins, 1992) to affect interest features humor production information. They are:
    1. Reinterpretation of a situation resulting from exposure to new information should not replace the interpretation that had seemed to be correct. In other words, new construction of reality should not alter one's perception of reality created initially apparent or implied. (Not replacing)
    2. Perception of reality which is stabilized by new information or value to be diminished in importance relative to the apparent reality that was originally assumed. Diminishing finally construct will require elaboration. (Decrease) jocuri 3d online
    Aptera's assumptions (1982 – after Wyer & Collins, 1992) about the irreplaceable and mitigation are found in other theories of humor. Neinlocuirii assumption is similar to Koestler's hypothesis (1964 – after Wyer & Collins, 1992) that humor requires the simultaneous two plans done in the same experience. Thus, an event that does not discredit someone's intelligence is funny only if the initial suggestion proved to be false.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Reply

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