Editor’s Note: Regulation in action.
Author: Emily Dreyfuss
As democracies around the world struggle to hold back the rising tide of authoritarianism, a similar crisis is unfolding online. Three factors converged this year to make 2018 the eighth straight year that global internet freedom declined, according to an annual report from the nonprofit Freedom House: increasing censorship in response to disinformation, the widespread collection of personal data, and a growing group of countries emulating China’s model of digital authoritarianism.
“The internet is growing less free around the world, and democracy itself is withering under its influence,” writes Adrian Shahbaz, lead author of the report. Analysts studied 65 countries, which together account for 87 percent of the world’s internet users, and rated each based on factors like barriers to access, limits on free expression, and violations of user rights and privacy. Since June 2017, the report found, internet freedom declined in 26 countries, while only 19 countries saw their scores improve. As a result, just 20 percent of the global internet population is considered “free.” The message is dire: Without significant effort on the part of tech companies, democratic nations, advocacy groups, the public, and the press, democracy might not survive the digital era.