from The Verge
Digital authoritarianism is on the rise, according to a new report from a group that monitors internet freedoms. Freedom House, a pro-democracy think tank, said today that governments are seeking more control over users’ data while also using laws nominally intended to address “fake news” to suppress dissent. It marked the eighth consecutive year that Freedom House found a decline in online freedoms around the world.
“The clear emergent theme in this report is the growing recognition that the internet, once seen as a liberating technology, is increasingly being used to disrupt democracies as opposed to destabilizing dictatorships,” said Mike Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, in a call with reporters. “Propaganda and disinformation are increasingly poisoning the digital sphere, and authoritarians and populists are using the fight against fake news as a pretext to jail prominent journalists and social media critics, often through laws that criminalize the spread of false information.”
In the United States, internet freedom declined in 2018 due to the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality rules. Other countries fared much worse — 17 out of 65 surveyed had adopted laws restricting online media. Of those, 13 prosecuted citizens for allegedly spreading false information. And more countries are accepting training and technology from China, which Freedom House describes as an effort to export a system of censorship and surveillance around the world.