Almost 40% of internet users globally don’t have internet freedom

William S. | October 19, 2021

As internet adoption continues to grow worldwide, more and more governments want to control what internet users can see and assert their authority over tech firms. These trends have resulted in a significant decrease in internet freedom and more restricted access to content.

According to the recent findings by the Atlas VPN team, almost 40% of internet users globally don’t have internet freedom. While Icelanders have the most liberty online, Chinese internet users suffer the most from content limitations and censorship.

The data is based on Freedom on the Net 2021 report released by Freedom House. The organization is non-profit, and it conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights. Each country received a score from 0 to 100 based on a checklist of questions.

As per the findings, internet freedom is not available to 39% of internet users in 2021. Complete loss of internet freedom includes the government’s decisions to block specific applications and technologies, technical filtering, and website blocking, as well as other forms of censorship. In addition, violations of user rights and restrictions on free speech are also common.

Elsewhere, the internet is partly free to 28% of internet users. For example, India, considered ‘partly free,’ ordered blocking apps developed by China-based companies and deliberately disrupted internet connection during protests. Similar internet control practices can be seen in other nations with partial web freedom.

Following up, 21% of the world’s internet population has access to internet freedom. No critical internet controls were observed by researchers in Canada, Costa Rica, Estonia, France, Iceland, Japan, and the United Kingdom. People in such countries can freely express their opinions without being persecuted and access content with no or minimum restrictions.

Internet freedom rankings

Restrictions of internet freedom especially can be felt in authoritarian or communist regimes. Censorship of world news and website blockage is used to hide criticism of the government administrations, leaving people uninformed about the actual violations committed in their country.

Iceland ranks the highest in internet freedom global rankings, achieving 96 points. Users in this island country benefit from worldwide connectivity, few limitations on online content, and robust protections for their rights online. Media and government websites have not been subjected to cyberattacks in a couple of years.

Estonia is second in internet freedom by accumulating 94 points. The Estonian government is well-known for its innovative approach to e-government with low restrictions on internet access and online content. Despite that, in December 2020, researchers found that the Estonian government was a client of surveillance company Circles that allows monitoring phone data.

Furthermore, Canada and Costa Rica share third place on the global internet freedom ranking, each scoring 87 points. Finally, Taiwan closes out the top 5 with 80 points.

On the flip side, China is rated last in internet freedom as they received only 10 points. China remains one of the most oppressive countries to its internet users. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has tightened its control over media and online speech, censoring criticism about authorities’ response to the pandemic and Chinese-produced vaccines.

Iran ranks as the second-worst country globally in internet freedom with 16 points. During anti-government rallies, the Iranian administration imposed localized internet shutdowns. They continued to limit access to independent news sites and a variety of social media and communication platforms.

Continuing the list, next is Myanmar, which suffered a significant decrease in internet freedom score since last year, going from 31 to 17 points in 2021. In February, the military coup influenced the decline of internet liberties, as the military junta shut down internet services. Cuba and Vietnam round out the list with 21 and 22 points, respectively.

As the world becomes more digital, governments want to have more control over people’s online presence. Some governments have taken complete control of what people should see on the internet. A shared global vision of free and open internet for everyone is a must if people want to keep their digital privacy safe.

William S.

William S.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Focused on revealing the latest cybersecurity trends around the world.

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