Before autocratic regimes fully grasped the democratic nature of the internet, netizens basked in the sunshine of global intercommunication. But in a backlash against digitally driven uprisings, such as those of the Arab Spring, tyrants are now maneuvering to bring users’ online and mobile activities under the shadow of outdated and arbitrary legal restrictions. One sign of this crackdown is the alarming number of digital activists behind bars around the world.
Freedom House’s recently released Freedom on the Net report found that more countries have suffered declines in internet freedom than improvements since the last edition, providing a powerful reminder of the challenges for international policies to promote freedom online. These policies are struggling to keep up with rapid changes in information and communication technologies, and with the increasingly sophisticated restrictions on internet freedom around the world.
Freedom House is concerned that the Chinese government plans to further restrict freedom of expression and enhance its online surveillance capability by requiring that new web blocking software be included with all personal computers sold in the country as of July 1.