At a time when global restrictions and control over Internet freedom is declining, India has witnessed biggest improvement as restrictions on access and content has been relaxed since last year. However, much remains to be desired as Governments all over the world are tightening their grip over information and expression on the World Wide Web.
These findings were revealed by Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization whose mission is to expand freedom all over the world, and save democracy.
The report titled ‘Freedom on the Net 2014’ has been created after collaborating data and statistics from Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.S. State Department’s, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), Google, and Yahoo. Data from 65 countries were collected and analyzed for this massive research.
The report mentions, “The year’s biggest improvement occurred in India, where authorities relaxed restrictions on access and content that had been imposed in 2013 to help quell rioting in northeastern states.”
India with 1.28 billion population and Internet penetration of 15% is now world’s third biggest country in terms of Internet access after USA and China. The report mentions that Supreme Court is currently “assessing the constitutionality of provisions in the IT Act and secondary legislation that restrict content and criminalize speech online”, and if it gets implemented, then India’s score will definitely go down next year (we had covered the issue here).
Additionally, a Central Monitoring System is also being implemented by the Indian Government, which is a mass surveillance program for Indian citizens. As per the report, these activities are classified as “Violations of User Rights”.
The report ranks countries on a scale of 0-100, with 0 with mostly free and 100 being least free. India has been ranked #42 this year, up from #47 last year, which is the biggest improvement any country has witnessed.
Globally, it’s the 4th straight year when the overall ranking of internet freedom in countries has dipped, which translates into more censorship, more surveillance and more punishments for those who seek freedom of expression.
36 out of 65 countries surveyed displayed a negative growth trajectory, with Russia, Turkey and Ukraine having the worst numbers.
China, Iran and Syria have emerged as the countries with worst Internet freedom. On the other hand, Iceland, Estonia and Canada have been maximum Internet freedom.
The report observes, “.. more people are being arrested for their Internet activity than ever before, online media outlets are increasingly pressured to censor themselves or face legal penalties, and private companies are facing new demands to comply with government requests for data or deletions.”
Recently, the judiciary system of Iran has sentenced death for a blogger, as he had insulted Prophet Mohammed on Facebook. All over the world, people are being jailed for expressing their thoughts on social media portals and websites, and in India too, last year atleast 9 criminal complaints were filed against people for social media posts.
We hope that the report creates awareness about the issue of Freedom on the Internet, and Governments all over the world stop controlling this excellent medium of communication, which will be the true victory of democracy.