As of 2012, nearly a third of the world’s population has used the internet, and an even greater portion possesses a mobile phone. The internet has transformed the way in which people obtain news, conduct business, communicate with one another, socialize, and interact with public officials. Concerned with the power of new technologies to catalyze political change, many authoritarian states have taken various measures to filter, monitor, or otherwise obstruct free speech online.
These tactics were particularly evident over the past year in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and China, where the authorities imposed further restrictions following the political uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, in which social media played a key role. To illuminate the nature of these evolving threats and identify areas of growing opportunity, Freedom House has conducted a comprehensive study of internet freedom in 47 countries around the globe.
This report is the third in its series and focuses on developments that occurred between January 2011 and May 2012. The previous edition, covering 37 countries, was published in April 2011. Freedom on the Net 2012 assesses a greater variety of political systems than its predecessors, while tracing improvements and declines in the countries examined in the previous two editions. Over 50 researchers, nearly all based in the countries they analyzed, contributed to the project by researching laws and practices relevant to the internet, testing the accessibility of select websites, and interviewing a wide range of sources.