Continuing decline in Internet freedom

| 5 December 2017

A new report from Freedom House shows that, in 2017, Internet freedom declined for the seventh consecutive year. Governments’ manipulation of social media is one explanation for this decline. Iceland and Estonia top the list of countries with high Internet freedom.

Freedom online decreased in half of the 65 countries included in the Freedom on the Net 2017 report. Only 13 countries showed improvements, which were minor.

The fact that social media is increasingly manipulated in order to undermine democracy is one explanation for the negative development. In 30 of the countries assessed there were government attempts to control online discussions, and in at least 18 countries (including the United States), manipulation and disinformation played an important role in elections.

Other negative trends are an increasing number of governments shutting down mobile Internet services to prevent information dissemination, and a dramatic increase of attacks on independent media and legal activists.

Map: Freedom on the Net 2017

Source: Freedom on the Net 2017, Freedom House

Only a quarter of the Internet users live in countries Freedom House categorizes as ‘free’ in relation to the Internet.

Iceland (the only Nordic country included in the survey) and Estonia together top this 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, Syria and Ethiopia are noted as the worst countries for freedom on the Internet.

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

About the report: Freedom on the Net 2017 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, 2016 and May 31, 2017. Read more about about Freedom House.


Compare media freedom indices worldwide: Media Freedom Navigator is a website developed by the German DW Akademie, where the users themselves, through navigating an interactive world map, can compare global press and development indices. Read more