Continuing decline in global Internet freedom

| 16 November 2018

In 2018, Internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year, according to the annual assessment by Freedom House.  Worst is the situation in China, while Iceland and Estonia top the list of countries with high Internet freedom.

The Internet is becoming less free around the world. In the past year, freedom online decreased in 29 of the 65 countries assessed in the Freedom on the Net 2018 report, compared to 19 countries showing improvement.

This means that among Internet users, around half (47 per cent) live in countries where the surveillance powers of the authorities increased in the past year, threatening user rights to privacy.

About as many live in countries where individuals have been attacked or killed for their online activities (48 per cent), or in countries where political, social, or religious content was blocked online (55 per cent). Only two of ten Internet users (20 per cent) live in countries Freedom House categorises as ‘free’ in relation to the Internet.

Global map showing countries categorised as free, partly free and not free by Freedom House
Source: Freedom on the Net 2018, Freedom House

Contributing to the negative development is the Chinese model of an extensive censorship and surveillance system, which is being embraced by more countries, with training provided by Chinese officials. Other worrying trends include the increasing disinformation and propaganda being used by authorities as a pretext for further Internet restrictions, and the unbridled collection of personal data, which has broken down traditional notions of privacy.

Iceland and Estonia, the only two countries in the Nordic and Baltic area included in the study, together top the positive end of the list. Their populations’ high Internet use, as well as steps to strengthen e-governance initiatives, are some features highlighted in the country reports.

At the opposite end of the list, China is noted as the worst abuser of Internet freedom in 2018, followed by Iran, Ethiopia, and Syria.

The full report is available here
Country report for Iceland
Country report for Estonia


About the report: Freedom on the Net 2018 covers 65 countries – accounting for almost 90 per cent of Internet users worldwide – in six regions around the world. The countries were chosen to illustrate Internet freedom improvement and decline in a variety of political systems. The numerical ratings and reports include a focus on developments between June 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018. Read more about Freedom House