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Community Champion

Global internet freedoms take another dive as censorship and fake news proliferate

The US pro-democracy think tank Freedom House produces a report on internet freedoms each year. This year, it assessed 65 countries, and found freedoms had declined in 26 of them. Of the 19 that made improvements, most were only minor.

According to the report, the top-rated countries were Iceland and Estonia, with scores of 6 (the lower the better) and Canada, with a score of 15. They were followed by Germany (19), Australia (21) and the US – which slipped from a score of 21 to 22 thanks to repeals of net neutrality laws and a failure to reform sweeping surveillance rules. The UK was in the seventh spot, with a score of 23.

Unsurprisingly, China was the worst offender, with a score of 88 – and the report was at pains to emphasise the country's approach to censorship and surveillance was spreading across the world, saying it was "remak[ing] the world in its techno-dystopian image".

 

Seventeen governments are said to have approved or proposed laws restricting online media in the name of fighting fake news.

 

Countries including Egypt and Iran rewrote media laws so they apply to social media, and have used this to jail critics and block foreign media and communications services. Cambodia requires all websites to register with the government, which can impose jail sentences of up to two years for spreading fake news online.