Freedom on the Net
2014 Freedom on the Net
Freedom on the Net is Freedom House's newest index, assessing the degree of internet and digital media freedom around the world. Since its first edition in 2009, Freedom on the Net has become one of the leading references for policymakers, journalists, and activists on this emerging and increasingly important dimension of human rights.
The fifth edition of Freedom on the Net was released on December 4, 2014 and features detailed country narratives in addition to a one-of-a-kind numerical index covering 65 countries across six geographical regions. The newest report also includes an analytical overview essay and graphics of the key findings and emerging threats to global digital media freedom that occurred during the edition's coverage period of May 2013 - May 2014. The previous edition, Freedom on the Net 2013, was released on October 3, 2013 and featured analysis of 60 countries between May 2012 and April 2013.
“Freedom on the Net is an indispensable resource for anyone who cares about freedom in the digital age. The report provides excellent analysis of existing restrictions on speech online, and it highlights the emerging threats that we'll be fighting in the months and years to come.”
Ross LaJeunesse, Global Head of Free Expression and International Relations, Google
About the Survey
Over the past decade, the influence of the internet as a means to spread information and challenge existing media controls has rapidly expanded. As events in the Middle East in 2011 demonstrated, the internet has also emerged as a crucial medium through which citizens can mobilize and advocate for political, social, and economic reform. Fearing the power of the new technologies, authoritarian states have devised subtle and not-so-subtle ways to filter, monitor, and otherwise obstruct or manipulate the openness of the internet. Even a number of democratic states have considered or implemented various restrictions in response to the potential legal, economic, and security challenges raised by new media.
In order to illuminate these emerging threats and identify areas of opportunity for internet freedom, Freedom House has developed the first comprehensive, comparative, and numerically based set of indicators for monitoring and analyzing internet freedom. In consultation with leading experts, Freedom House has devised a unique, systematic, and innovative way of assessing internet freedom across the full spectrum of country types. This methodology was first tested on 15 countries in Freedom House’s pilot edition of Freedom on the Net, published in 2009. Since then, a second edition was published in 2011, a third edition in September 2012, and a fourth edition in October 2013. The fifth and latest edition was released on December 4, 2014.
Each country assessment includes a detailed narrative report and numerical score, based on Freedom House’s first-of-its-kind methodology.
This methodology applies a three-pillared approach to capture the level of internet and ICT freedom:
- Obstacles to Access—including infrastructural and economic barriers to access, legal and ownership control over internet service providers (ISPs), and independence of regulatory bodies;
- Limits on Content—including legal regulations on content, technical filtering and blocking of websites, self-censorship, the vibrancy/diversity of online news media, and the use of ICTs for civic mobilization;
- Violations of User Rights—including surveillance, privacy, and repercussions for online activity, such as imprisonment, extralegal harassment, or cyber attacks.
Freedom on the Net receives widespread media coverage and attention in the policymaking community throughout the year. Following the latest report's launch in December, Freedom on the Net 2014 has been utilized in multiple high-profile media outlets to frame debates about global internet freedom trends, including in The New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the Guardian. The global map of internet freedom was prominently featured in an article, also in the Washington Post, that used a series of maps and graphs to capture the main developments related to the internet in 2014. In less than a month following its release, the 2014 report garnered over 450 media mentions spanning 73 countries.
High level government officials have also referenced the report’s findings, including in a speech by the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister and in an op-ed by U.S. Congressman Ed Royce for the Orange County Register, both encouraging the promotion of internet freedom principles based on the findings in the report. The president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, is well known for his praise of Freedom on the Net, stating in 2014:
"Freedom House's 'Freedom on the Net' report is the premier measure of the state of fundamental freedoms online."
Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia
“As online freedom, digital security, and internet governance assume greater prominence in our global debates, Freedom House’s 'Freedom on the Net' will continue to play a vital role in framing the debate among international stake-holders. It really provides an indispensable framework for debating the issues.”
Carl Bildt, Swedish Foreign Minister
In the process of producing Freedom on the Net, Freedom House has established an extensive network of researchers and partners who track developments in over 65 countries. This has enabled awareness of the report to spread far beyond the English speaking world. In addition, the report is frequently used as a capacity building tool for many of the authors involved in the project who have used the report towards their advocacy efforts.
Freedom on the Net has further been used as a critical resource to inform various global issues as they unfolded throughout the year. In late 2014 and early 2015, for example, international attention on the United States’ easing of sanctions on Cuba led many journalists and policy-makers to question what the new opening would mean for Cuba’s notorious restrictions on internet and press freedom. Freedom on the Net project director Sanja Kelly was quoted in numerous elite media outlets on this issue, including in Time Magazine, Washington Post, and International Business Times, while research analyst Laura Reed was featured in American Public Media’s “Marketplace Tech” podcast.