China exporting restrictive internet policies, says watchdog

The flag of the Chinese Communist Party is displayed at an exhibition showcasing China's progress in the past five years at the Beijing Exhibition Center on Oct. 10 2017

India Leads World With Highest Number of Internet Shutdowns; 121 Instances Reported in 2018 Alone

Internet freedoms have taken a nose dive for the eighth year running, according to a report warning that authoritarian countries and populist leaders are exporting harmful attitudes and ideas around the world. According to the analysis, an increasing number of governments have laws restricting online media under the slogan of struggle against "fake news", as well as increase the level of supervision of the users, receiving unlimited access to their data.

The data, which was compiled by Software Freedom Law Centre, showed that there were 121 instances till date this year when the government authorities had shut down the internet. Zlatica Hoke has this story. In particular, the report stresses that thanks to the rise of digital authoritarianism, the Internet can be used in order to undermine the democratic system and to destabilize dictatorships.

India led the world in the number of internet shutdowns, with over 100 reported incidents in 2018 so far, claiming that the moves were needed to halt the flow of disinformation and incitement to violence.

"Digital authoritarianism is being promoted as a way for governments to control their citizens through technology, inverting the concept of the internet as an engine of human liberation", Freedom House said.

"Democratic governments will have to devote much greater diplomatic and other resources to countering China's charm offensive on the worldwide stage", Freedom House added.

The report suggests methods for countries to stem the spread of, what it calls, China's "techno-dystopian expansionism".

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"While deliberately falsified content is a genuine problem, some governments are increasingly using 'fake news" as a pretence to consolidate their control over information and suppress dissent'.

At the same time, the regime in China has become more brazen in providing like-minded governments with technology and training that enable them to control their own citizens online.

While China, Iran and Syria topped Freedom House's index of internet censorship, the United States also saw its internet freedom decline in 2018, reflecting obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of users' rights.

It cited the establishment of the state-controlled National Broadband Network Company and National Gateway and Data Center, which were both established during the past 12 months.

During the early decades of the internet, many influential thinkers claimed the internet, by its very nature, would spread democracy and freedom of speech.

That rating released research organization Freedom House.

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