- Internet freedom around the world declined in 2016 for the sixth consecutive year.
- Two-thirds of all internet users – 67 percent – live in countries where criticism of the government, military, or ruling family are subject to censorship.
- Social media users face unprecedented penalties, as authorities in 38 countries made arrests based on social media posts over the past year. Globally, 27 percent of all internet users live in countries where people have been arrested for publishing, sharing, or merely “liking” content on Facebook.
- Governments are increasingly going after messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, which can spread information quickly and securely.
Interestingly, the report displays a chart showing Internet Freedom vs Internet Penetration and GDP without providing any comment.
The chart triggers a variety of questions ranging from the linkages between Internet Freedom and GDP up to the correlations between ICT growth, development and democracy.
Indeed, the Internet presents the ‘Dictator’s dilemma’ for authoritarian regimes.
On one hand, shutting it down can hurt their economy. On the other, leaving it open and unrestricted can threaten their power grip as it facilitates their citizens’ ability to access and share political information and engage collectively.
Most often respond to this dilemma through sophisticated and opaque ways, taking advantage of the tool, by for example promoting e-government as a means to strengthen their authoritarian rule while tightening control and surveillance. (see figure from the World Development Report 2016 – Digital Dividends)