Freedom on the Net
Freedom on the Net is Freedom House's newest index, assessing the degree of internet and digital media freedom around the world. In the short few years since its creation, Freedom on the Net has become one of the leading references for policymakers, journalists, and activists on this emerging and increasingly important dimension of human rights.
2012 Edition Release
On September 24, 2012, Freedom House released its latest Freedom on the Net report. The new edition is available here and includes detailed country reports and a one-of-a-kind numerical index covering 47 countries in six geographical regions. In addition, an analytical overview essay and accompanying graphics will highlight key findings and emerging threats to global digital media freedom.
About the Survey
Over the past decade, the influence of the internet as a means to spread information and challenge existing media controls has rapidly expanded. As events in the Middle East in 2011 demonstrated, the internet has also emerged as a crucial medium through which citizens can mobilize and advocate for political, social, and economic reform. Fearing the power of the new technologies, authoritarian states have devised subtle and not-so-subtle ways to filter, monitor, and otherwise obstruct or manipulate the openness of the internet.
Even a number of democratic states have considered or implemented various restrictions in response to the potential legal, economic, and security challenges raised by new media.
In order to illuminate these emerging threats and identify areas of opportunity for internet freedom, Freedom House has developed the first comprehensive, comparative, and numerically based set of indicators for monitoring and analyzing internet freedom. In consultation with leading experts, Freedom House has devised a unique, systematic, and innovative way of assessing internet freedom across the full spectrum of country types. This methodology was first tested on 15 countries in Freedom House’s pilot edition of Freedom on the Net, published in 2009. Since then, a second edition was published in 2011 and a third one is to be released in September 2012.
Each country assessment includes a detailed narrative report and numerical score, based on Freedom House’s first-of-its-kind methodology.
This methodology applies a three-pillared approach to capture the level of internet and ICT freedom:
- Obstacles to Access—including infrastructural and economic barriers to access, legal and ownership control over internet service providers (ISPs), and independence of regulatory bodies;
- Limits on Content—including legal regulations on content, technical filtering and blocking of websites, self-censorship, the vibrancy/diversity of online news media, and the use of ICTs for civic mobilization;
- Violations of User Rights—including surveillance, privacy, and repercussions for online activity, such as imprisonment, extralegal harassment, or cyber attacks.
The first two editions of Freedom on the Net received widespread media coverage and attention in the policymaking community. This included coverage in prominent media outlets such as the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Hundreds of online media outlets and blogs, including the Huffington Post and CNN’s blog also covered the report’s findings, with many reproducing key graphs.
In the process of producing these publications on internet freedom, Freedom House has established an extensive network of researchers and partners who track developments in nearly 50 countries. This has enabled awareness of the report to spread far beyond the English speaking world. The report's findings have been cited in news reports and blogs in over 35 countries, including by the leading media outlets in Mexico, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Germany, and Thailand.
The Freedom on the Net report has also served as an important source of business intelligence for leading tech companies, a basis for policy discussions, and an advocacy tool for on-the-ground activists. Freedom on the Net was presented at a special session at the United Nations honoring the International World Press Freedom Day in 2012 and analysts who wrote country reports participated in panels at the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Internet Governance Forum. In Thailand, net activists were able to use the information and the data from the report to lobby against proposed legislation that would negatively affect internet freedom, while local free expression groups in Azerbaijan and Pakistan used outreach to the media at the time of the report's publication to invigorate public discussion about internet restrictions in their countries.
Our entire catalogue of reports will be available soon. A limited selection of reports are available from the drop-down menu below. For previous editions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.