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Cybersecurity & Standards

Freedom House releases Freedom on the Net 2013

On Thursday, Freedom House released Freedom on the Net 2013, the organization’s fourth annual report examining access to ICTs, violations of user rights, limitations on online content, and policy developments that affect Internet openness. The report includes narrative profiles and Internet freedom “scores” for 60 countries around the world, with an emphasis on countries where Internet openness and user rights have historically been at risk. CDT provided comments and insight for the report’s United States profile.

In this year’s edition, Freedom House reports a decline in Internet freedom in 34 of the 60 nations profiled, due primarily to widespread government surveillance, new content controls, and repression of social-media users. The report specifically calls attention to deteriorating conditions in Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Venezuela. China, Cuba, and Iran are at the bottom of the list for the second year in a row. Despite the overall drop in scores, the report highlights that Internet freedom activists are stepping up efforts to fight repressive laws and practices, and have had notable successes in a number of countries.

The Freedom on the Net report rates countries on a scale of “free” to “not free.” This year, the U.S. rating became “less free” due primarily to new information about bulk data collection and broad surveillance practices. Aggressive prosecutions under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) also had a negative effect on the U.S. score. CDT has written in opposition to expanding CFAA, and supported efforts to reform the law following the suicide of Aaron Schwartz, a programmer and activist who was aggressively prosecuted under CFAA.

While the scoring method used for the report provides a simplified picture of the often complex threats to Internet freedom that exist around the world, the accompanying narratives shed some light on critical distinctions in how threats take shape from country to country. Comparing reports from multiple years can also give readers a useful sketch of a country’s Internet freedom trajectory over time. Readers can find a downloadable PDF for the report here.