Freedom on the Net 2014
Fig. 1. Courtesy of Freedom House, 2014.

Freedom House released its new report titled Freedom on the Net 2014: Tightening the Net: Governments Expand Online Controls edited by Sanja Kelly, Mai Truong, Madeline Earp, Laura Reed, Adrian Shahbaz, and Ashley Greco-Stoner. The 986 page study covers 65 countries, including Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and others.

From the report's introduction:

Freedom on the Net 2014 – the fifth annual comprehensive study of internet freedom around the globe, covering developments in 65 countries that occurred between May 2013 and May 2014 –finds internet freedom around the world in decline for the fourth consecutive year, with 36 out of 65 countries assessed in the report experiencing a negative trajectory during the coverage period.

In a departure from the past, when most governments preferred a behind-the-scenes approach to internet control, countries rapidly adopted new laws that legitimize existing repression and effectively criminalize online dissent.

The past year also saw increased government pres­sure on independent news websites, which had previously been among the few uninhibited sources of information in many countries, in addition to more people detained or prosecuted for their digital activities than ever before.

- Between May 2013 and May 2014, 41 countries passed or proposed legislation to penalize legitimate forms of speech online, increase government powers to control content, or expand government surveillance capabilities.

- Since May 2013, arrests for online communications pertinent to politics and social issues were documented in 38 of the 65 countries, most notably in the Middle East and North Africa, where detentions occurred in 10 out of the 11 countries examined in the region.

- Pressure on independent news websites, among the few unfettered sources of information in many countries, dramatically increased. Dozens of citizen journalists were attacked while reporting on conflict in Syria and antigovernment protests in Egypt, Turkey and Ukraine. Other governments stepped up licensing and regulation for web platforms. 

The full report is available for PDF download here.