Online freedoms decline gravely for 11th year in a row


  • Internet users worldwide face harassment, arrests and physical attacks over their online activity.
  • Freedom of the Net report gives countries a score out of 100 for the level of Internet freedom enjoyed by citizens.
  • In 2021, users faced physical attacks in retribution for their online posts in 41 countries.

Online freedoms diminished worldwide for the 11th year in a row, according to the annual “Freedom on the Net” report, published today.

Painting a grim picture of digital freedoms in 2021, the report said that Internet users in a growing number of countries have faced harassment, detention, legal persecution, physical attacks and death for their online activities over the past year.

The report said that Internet shutdowns in Myanmar and Belarus had proved particular low points in the troubling pattern of diminishing freedom of speech online.

Compiled by the US think-tank Freedom House, the report gives countries a score out of 100 for the level of Internet freedom enjoyed by citizens, including the extent to which they face restrictions on the content they can access.

Other factors include whether pro-government trolls seek to manipulate online debates.

“This year, users faced physical attacks in retribution for their online activities in 41 countries,” the report said, a “record high” since the tracking started 11 years ago.

Examples included a Bangladeshi student hospitalized after a beating for alleged “anti-government activities” on social media, and a Mexican journalist assassinated after posting a Facebook video accusing a gang of murder.

Also, people had been arrested or convicted for their online activities in 56 out of the 70 countries covered by the report – a record 80 percent.

They included two Egyptian influencers jailed in June for sharing TikTok videos that encouraged women to pursue careers on social media platforms.

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