India tops Internet shutdown chart for its users across world

India tops Internet shutdown chart for its users across world

Freedom House's annual report on internet freedom, entitled "Freedom on the Net" and released today, finds that global internet freedom is on the decline for the eighth consecutive year. Meanwhile, the Internet Shutdown Tracker data shows that 259 incidents were reported from 2012 till October 2018 in India.

India has had the highest number of internet shutdowns by government authorities this year too.

State-wise, Jammu and Kashmir recorded the highest number of Internet shutdowns with at least 36 documented incidents in 2018.

The research director of Freedom House, Adrian Shahbaz, claimed that there is now a move towards digital authoritarianism by a host of countries, all-embracing the Chinese model.

Countries such as Egypt and Iran, have "rewritten restrictive media laws to apply to social media users, jailed critics under measures created to curb false news, and blocked foreign social media and communication services", says the Freedom House report.

As internet freedoms were rolled back around the world this year, online censorship and a lack of digital privacy meant that China once more ranked lowest in the world in the group's "Freedom on the Net" report.

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The report will likely anger North Korea, which often complains about what it claims is persistent US hostility. However, critics say North Korea's human rights status has been ignored as nuclear negotiation talks continue.

In fact, as the Freedom House report demonstrates, the internet is an excellent tool for social control, enabling surveillance and guiding of public opinion that would have been impossible in the past. According to the data, government control has affected internet freedom. The consortium includes a few leading companies and grassroots bodies formed to raise the bar of internet freedom. "The current weaknesses in the system have played into the hands of less democratic governments looking to increase their control of the internet".

Established in 1941 and based in D.C., Freedom House is largely funded by the U.S. Department of State, and its report credits the support of donors including the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Google.

The implementation of a draconian Cybersecurity Law and growing use of surveillance technologies had led to "new extremes" in the country, where internet policy is centralized under the powerful Cyberspace Administration, the report said. Internet censorship, known as the Great Firewall, has ramped up under Xi, transforming into an "alarmingly effective apparatus of censorship and surveillance".

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

The House is now criticizing the United States for doing so.

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