Friday, October 30, 2015

Cuba Still America’s Champion, for Censoring Speech Online

Cuba Still America's Champion, for Censoring Speech Online
Worldwide Freedom on the Internet Takes a Dive for Five Years Straight

EspañolCuba is the clear top dog in the Americas for preventing access
to the World Wide Web, but the next worst offenders are Venezuela,
Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia — as documented by Freedom House and their
newly released Freedom on the Net 2015 report.

The worldwide trend has been a decline in Internet freedom for five
straight years, and the October 28 report shows that constituents of the
poorly rated countries, in addition to censorship, suffer from the
expansion of government surveillance and crackdowns on privacy tools in
2014. Further, most of the Latin American culprit nations have had
citizens arrested for simply sharing information concerning politics and

Freedom House describes itself as an "independent watchdog organization
that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around
the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights."

The NGO's project leader, Sanja Kelly, stated in a press release that
"governments are increasingly pressuring individuals and the private
sector to take down or delete offending content, as opposed to relying
on blocking and filtering."

Their report, which addresses 65 nations, also mentions the restrictions
that government officials impose on encryption and anonymity tools in
most countries around the globe. These privacy tools, they explain, help
protect Internet users from government abuse.

"Undermining online encryption and anonymity weakens the internet for
everyone, but especially for human rights activists and independent
journalists," Kelly added.

The report highlights that 61 percent of internet users live in
countries where any type of criticism against the government — or ruling
family — has been "subject to online censorship."

Among the most crucial findings reported were: an increase on the number
of censored topics and content removals, an escalation in number of
arrests and intimidation of writers or sharers of political content, and
a rise in the number of surveillance laws passed.

Latin America, a "Partially Free" Land

Cuba is the only Latin American country to earn the unenviable
categorization as "not free." The report mentions over 100 new Internet
access points on the island, but it states that the communist nation
"continues to have some of the most restrictive internet access in the

Another hostile country for online journalists and bloggers is Mexico,
where reporters there fall prey to both violence from organized criminal
organizations and cyber-attacks. Reporters without Borders, which does
related work, has ranked Mexico as one of the worst places to be a
journalist (148 out of 180), after a decade with more than 80
journalists killed and 17 reported as disappeared.

Freedom of the Net 2015 warns of misguided intervention: "a ruling by
the Federal Institute of Access to Information and Personal Data
Protection (IFAI) [of Mexico] may set a precedent for users to request
that search engines remove results that violate their privacy or harm
their reputation."

Regarding Ecuador, the document states that President Correa's Twitter
campaign against online critics led to an online confrontation that
"escalated to include hacking, trolling, and threats."

In Colombia, the main challenges involve infrastructure and high costs.
Also, "there are occasional cases of content removal; takedowns are
isolated rather than systematic and stem mostly from muddy legislation
rather than onerous governmental policies."

Cyber activist Luis Carlos Díaz from Venezuela tells the PanAm Post that
this report is useful because it contains verifiable data that enables
Venezuelans to place their lack of Internet freedom into perspective.

The activist says that the situation in Venezuela is "extremely
serious," and that in 2014 and 2015 the government blocked several
websites and performed arbitrary detentions for sharing content on Twitter.

"Detained Twitter users awaited several months in prison and were not
served with due process nor justice," he adds.

"In relation to technical infrastructure, we have seen an incredible
decline in Venezuela. The main company that provides the service has
stopped providing 10-megabits service and is now offering only 1 mega
or, at most, 2-mega-per-second speed in the majority of Caracas."

Díaz says that in Venezuela, their Internet bandwidth has not improved
in years. That has resulted in the slowest Internet connections in all
of Latin America.

"Venezuelans face a slow, expensive, restricted, and censored internet
environment," he concluded.

Belén Marty
Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos
Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab
Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local
office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.

Source: Cuba Still America's Champion, for Censoring Speech Online -

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