Two-Thirds Live
Under Internet
Censorship
In 2016

Governments are increasingly targeting messaging apps and social media

The pro-democracy think-tank Freedom House has released its latest annual report on internet freedom. The report found that global internet freedom has decreased for the sixth consecutive year, with two-thirds of internet users around the world now living under some form of government-imposed censorship. China was the worst country in the world for internet freedom, followed by Syria and Iran. The report found a worrying trend of censorship of messaging apps and social media sites. The popular messaging app WhatsApp was blocked or otherwise restricted in 12 countries. In three of these countries, Bangladesh, Bahrain and Ethiopia, this was done in an attempt to quash anti-government protests. Furthermore, the messaging app Telegram was blocked in China after the government realised that it was increasingly being used by human rights lawyers. Looking at social media, 24 governments either blocked or restricted access to social media sites in 2016, up from 15 last year. Governments are also expanding the kinds of content they are willing to censor. The report found a rise in the number of online petitions being censored, as well as sites being used to organise protests and sites promoting LGBT rights. In total, online freedom declined in 34 of the 65 countries covered in the report. 

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