On December 14, the people of the United States found out the hard way how fragile a free and uncensored internet can be when the Federal Communications Commission repealed the rules governing net neutrality. In spite of the fact that polls stated eighty-three percent of the population supported net neutrality, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his fellow Commission members decided to repeal the legislation in a 3-to-2 party-line vote. Of course, the United States isn’t the only country dealing with an attack on internet freedom. Throughout the world, people are forced to use internet that is — at best — heavily censored. Here are some of the worst offenders.
The authorities of Burma are playing a kind-of whack-a-mole with what they perceive to be nefarious threats on the internet. While the people have access to internet, it’s extremely regulated. The government routinely blocks access to sites that voice opposition to the government. Those people daring enough to send emails in Burma can count on having them filtered through a government checker before they find their source.
2. North Korea
North Korea has an extremely oppressive internet, which is really not surprising for a country that’s run by a third-generation dictator with limited access to electricity. Only about four percent of the population have access to the internet, and every web site is government owned. It’s probably easier to make up the propaganda when the people can’t get access to the facts.
China may have the appearance of free internet, but the Chinese government is working overtime to undermine the authority of those people who express discontent with the country. Real-name registration is a requirement for all internet users, IP addresses of offenders are blocked, and new laws are working to compel companies to decrypt information at a moment’s notice.
To its credit, Iran is slowly working to undo years of internet oppression. Internet speeds have risen and more people have begun to make use of mobile internet. That said, in the last two years several noted activists have been arrested as a result of anti-government Facebook posts, which means that Iran still has a lot of ground to make up.
Due to a heavy-handed influence on the part of the Islamic State, Syrians are forced to live under extremely harsh internet regulations. Anyone having the gumption to say something critical of the IS is routinely silenced by the harshest means possible. Of course, all things in perspective, “censored internet” is the least of Syria’s issues right now.
It’s hard to say that the internet is uncensored when access to the net happens to turn off right around the time citizens might use their phones to showcase some anti-government protests. At times of civil disruption, the Ethiopian government has gone to the extent of simply blocking access to apps that might share their mistakes with the world. The government has also cracked down on people who would teach others how to make their computers more secure, say, from government snooping.
Though the nation has begun a slow march to open itself to the outside world, the government of Cuba is still restrictive. The internet isn’t doled out freely to everyone, it’s relegated to certain access points. Writing or searching for anything that’s critical of the government is a big no-no, and users may also be subject to having their search history searched at a moment’s notice.
Internet-wise, things in Uzbekistan are pretty dire. The VoIPs that citizens of the United States take for granted (think: Skype) have been completely banned in the country since July of 2015. What’s more, last year, the government passed strict new laws that allowed them to give serious jail time to people who would threaten public stability over social media.
The Vietnamese government is holding steady in a semi-oppressive internet status. Citizens have access to Facebook and Instagram, however, when social protests begin to percolate, the government has no qualms with blocking access. Several bloggers have been sentenced to jail for anti-government sentiment, and the people in charge of Vietnam are in the process of undermining user privacy, as well.
10. Saudi Arabia
Slowy, but surely, the Internet is coming to Saudi Arabia. Internet penetration in the country is at an all time high thanks to rising mobile phone subscriptions. However, authorities still exercise a lot of control over the nation. When protestors get too rowdy, for example, the government has been known to throttle down internet access to prevent organization.
The authorities in Bahrain are absolutely uninterested in internet freedom. Not only do they routinely cut access to messaging apps like Telegram, the government also keeps a close eye on the activity of its citizens. In one instance, the government forced the shutdown of an ISP who refused to allow them to decrypt user data.
In early 2016, the Pakistani government allowed its citizens to access a country-specific YouTube called YouTube PK. That small victory aside, the government continues to suppress any kind of dissent. They’ve jailed protestors on several occasions and passed legislation that makes it easier for authorities to censor speech.
13. United Arab Emirates
Imagine seeing the inside of a jail cell because you called Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi a dummy on Twitter. That’s what happens in the UAE where authorities make a habit of imprisoning political activists who speak out online. Several laws in the country allow for the jailing of people who speak out against political authorities or God.
14. The Gambia
Over the last two years, at least two protestors have been jailed for Facebook posts that were critical of the country’s president and considered blasphemous, respectively. The Gambian government has also reportedly attacked the accounts of people who have been pinpointed as protestors.