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Jurist Freedom House report: governments using COVID-19 pandemic to limit internet freedom

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Nov 11, 2016
Freedom House, a human rights watchdog group, released a report on internet freedom in the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday criticizing government internet freedom violations since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report outlined three recent, prevailing issues over internet freedom:

Three notable trends punctuated an especially dismal year for internet freedom. First, political leaders used the pandemic as a pretext to limit access to information. Authorities often blocked independent news sites and arrested individuals on spurious charges of spreading false news…Second, authorities cited COVID-19 to justify expanded surveillance powers and the deployment of new technologies that were once seen as too intrusive. The public health crisis has created an opening for the digitization, collection, and analysis of people’s most intimate data without adequate protections against abuses. Governments and private entities are ramping up their use of artificial intelligence (AI), biometric surveillance, and big-data tools to make decisions that affect individuals’ economic, social, and political rights…The third trend has been the transformation of a slow-motion “splintering” of the internet into an all-out race toward “cyber sovereignty,” with each government imposing its own internet regulations in a manner that restricts the flow of information across national borders. For most of the period since the internet’s inception, business, civil society, and government stakeholders have participated in a consensus-driven process to harmonize technical protocols, security standards, and commercial regulation around the world.
In its report, Freedom House listed the EU, India and the US as the sovereignties with the most internet freedom. Freedom House expressed concerns over some of the internet policies of Hong Kong, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam and heavily criticized China’s and Iran’s internet policies. Additionally, the report emphasized that Sudan, Ukraine and Zimbabwe had the largest increase in internet freedom in the past year, while Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and India had the largest declines in internet freedom in the past year.

Interestingly, the report acknowledged that the US has, “done more than [other countries] over the decades to develop and promote the global uptake of a free and open internet.” Despite this acknowledgment, Freedom House reports that the US has experienced its fourth consecutive year in which it declined in internet freedom due to its policies over privacy risks, “The new policies adopted by Washington constitute an arbitrary and disproportionate response to the genuine risks posed by the apps, particularly in the absence of strong data-privacy legislation that outlines the standards Americans should expect from domestic and foreign companies.” The report likewise analyzed specific policies of other countries.

Freedom House maintains a precise record of more than 60 countries’ internet policies from June 2019 to May 2020, from which it published its report.

The post Freedom House report: governments using COVID-19 pandemic to limit internet freedom appeared first on JURIST - News - Legal News & Commentary.

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