Freedom House
Fig. 1. Courtesy of Freedom House, 2011.

Freedom House published its new report titled "Freedom on the Net 2011: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media Freedom" edited by Sanja Kelly and Sarah Cook, reviewing the degree of internet freedom around the world. The 400 page study provides detailed country reports, a numerical index covering 37 countries (amongst others incl. Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey), an analytical overview essay and accompanying graphics that highlight key findings and emerging threats to global digital media freedom.

Fearing the power of the new technologies, authoritarian states have devised subtle and not-so-subtle ways to filter, monitor, and otherwise obstruct or manipulate the openness of the internet. Even a number of democratic states have considered or implemented various restrictions in response to the potential legal, economic, and security challenges raised by new media.

The methodology used in the report applies a three-pillared approach to capture the level of internet and ICT freedom:

1) Obstacles to Access - including infrastructural and economic barriers to access, legal and ownership control over internet service providers (ISPs), and independence of regulatory bodies.

2) Limits on Content - including legal regulations on content, technical filtering and blocking of websites, self-censorship, the vibrancy/diversity of online news media, and the use of ICTs for civic mobilization.

3) Violations of User Rights - including surveillance, privacy, and repercussions for online activity, such as imprisonment, extralegal harassment, or cyber attacks.

The study has found following key trends:

* Explosion in social-media use met with censorship
* Bloggers and ordinary users face arrest
* Cyberattacks against regime critics intensifying
* Politically motivated censorship and content manipulation growing
* Governments exploit centralized internet infrastructure to limit access

The full report is available for PDF download here.

In her article Approaches to Studying Net Freedom: Freedom House & The OpenNet Initiative published on The Meta-Activism Project, Mary C Joyce provides a brief comparative look at the Freedom House report and West Censoring East: The Use of Western Technologies by Middle East Censors, 2010-2011, a report issued by The OpenNet Initiative.