Washington: China’s “sophisticated and multi-layered” efforts to censor and control the Internet earned it a “not free” rating by a US rights group in a report released Wednesday.
Freedom House, which examined web freedom issues in 15 countries, listed Cuba, Iran and Tunisia as three other nations it considered “not free” due to government control of online activity.
Seven countries studied—Egypt, India, Georgia, Kenya, Malaysia, Russia and Turkey—were considered “partly free” while four others—Brazil, Britain, Estonia and South Africa—were labeled “free.”
Big brother watching: Customers at an internet cafe in Shanghai. Cuba and China were tied for curbing users’ rights the most. Qilai Shen / Bloomberg
Freedom House, which monitors political rights and civil liberties around the globe, said the rights of Internet users were increasingly at risk as governments expanded their ability to control online activity.
“More than a billion people look to the Internet and mobile phones to provide a new freedom frontier, where they can exercise their right to freedom of expression without repercussion,” Freedom House executive director Jennifer Windsor said in a statement.
“But as access grows, more governments are employing diverse and sophisticated methods to monitor, censor and punish Internet users.”
In its report, “Freedom on the Net,” to be formally released later on Wednesday at a conference of bloggers in Berlin, Freedom House evaluated the 15 countries based on barriers to Internet access, limitations on content and violations of users’ rights.
The Washington-based group said Cuba received the lowest score in the study. “Cuba is one of the world’s most repressive environments for Internet freedom, despite a slight relaxation of restrictions on computer and mobile phone sales in 2008,” it said.
“There is almost no access to Internet applications other than email and surveillance is extensive. Cuba is one of the few countries with laws and regulations explicitly restricting and outlawing certain online activities.”
Freedom House also said that China and Cuba were tied for curbing the most users’ rights.