The Top 10 Worst Countries for Internet Freedom

The internet offers many great resources all of which can be accessed by people from around the world. Well, not quite true, as there are some countries in the world where internet freedom is strict.

Freedom House published scores based out of 100, with 100 being the worst score for freedom and one being the best score. Here we are going to look at the top 10 worst countries for internet freedom.

1. China Scores 88/100

China is at the top of the list for being the worst country for internet freedom with a huge score of 88/100. This may be surprising when you take into account China has the most internet users, around 772 million.

There are many restrictions on availability and internet speeds, along with what users can actually access. The government in China has some of the most sophisticated equipment for censoring what users can and cannot access.

Records revealed in 2017 showed that up to 2015 over 13,000 locally hosted websites had been closed down or blocked. This includes the fact that social media accounts can be closed or blocked at the censorship authority’s request.

2. Iran Score 85/100

Iran is close behind China with having a score of 85/100. At one point in time, authorities made internet connections come to a crawl when they slowed the speeds, while at times blocking access to servers, along with data, outside of the country completely.

The use of social media including Instagram and Telegram were blocked, with authorities saying that the latter was a threat to the national security. Before the ban, there had been around 40 million users of Telegram in Iran alone, and some individuals were jailed in Iran for having associations with the site.

Tens of thousands of websites, such as news, religious and ethnic sites have been restricted or banned along with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube access.

3. Ethiopia Scores 83/100

Next on the Freedom House list for being among the worst countries for internet freedom, is Ethiopia with a score of 83/100. The score was given when Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was in office but has improved somewhat since Abiy Ahmed took his place in April 2018.

In the past, the government has closed down or blocked social media websites in Ethiopia along with certain online activities being restricted. The government even arrested some bloggers, convicting them of using the internet for terrorism. Access to the internet for many is restricted by underdeveloped telecommunications infrastructures, with just a small quantity of signal stations in the country.

4. Syria Scores 83/100

Syria matches Ethiopia with a score of 83/100. In the past, there have been heavy restrictions on the freedom of using the internet. Things are slowly improving in Syria with the unlocking of many websites previously blocked but there have been somewhat violent reprisals for activities online.

Syria is classed as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to access the internet. Twelve visiting journalists lost their lives during 2017 and a digital activist was executed in 2015.

Even today the government blocks access to a lot of content online, including human rights sites, cultural and political sites, and sites exposing corruption.

5. Cuba Scores 79/100

While there have been moves to boost internet access in Cuba the country is one of the least connected along with being the most repressive environments in regards to communication technology.

Around 42.98% of the population has internet access but just a small percentage of these individuals have access to the global internet. Those that do have slow connections, typically around 1Mbps.

Internet connections in the home were almost non-existent until 2016. It has been suggested that the governments limit the user’s access by withholding technology. It is possible to access Twitter and Facebook but social media platforms are heavily monitored. Skype access remains blocked.

6. Pakistan Scores 73/100

Pakistan scored 73/100 with the government restricting access to the internet during national holidays and religious holidays. The government also suspended the use of social media platforms along with installing spyware to watch over the accounts of those thought to be defending human rights.

There have also been deaths linked with the sharing of blasphemy on social media in 2018. The Pakistani government claims they close down websites due to national security issues. Access to religious, political, news, sex and nudity, and social media platforms is guarded using filtering technology.

7. Saudi Arabia Scores 73/100

Saudi Arabia has a population of more than 32 million and freedom to use the internet began to decline during 2018. Freedom of expression and human rights were hit hard with the country seeing religious offenses along with political and social acts, to be acts of terrorism.

Arrests were made in 2017 on those criticizing policies of the government on social media and 17 people were hospitalized along with one journalist dying. Social media platforms have bandwidth limitations in place to stop file and image sharing.

Any site considered to contain material deemed offensive, harmful, illegal or anti-Islamic is blocked. This includes websites containing drug information, gambling and pornography.

8. Bahrain Scores 71/100

Bahrain scores 71/100 with forced self-censorship being a huge issue. Authorities in Bahrain threaten and interrogate journalists, along with activists and bloggers with 27 people arrested during June 2017 to May 2018. Seven of those arrested were handed prison sentences for taking part in online activities, including re-tweeting.

Hundreds of websites have remained on the blocked list along with a growing list of topics banned.

9. Myanmar Scores 64/100

Myanmar scored 64/100 with journalists facing violence and intimidation at the hands of the government. Internet freedom fell under the National League for Democracy in 2018 and continued to fall. The blocking of Facebook along with filtering has brought about a disproportionate effect on internet users in Myanmar.

Around one-third of the population in Myanmar has internet access but bandwidth is low with users having connections that are poor thanks to power outages, interruptions of service and issues with infrastructure.

10. Belarus Scores 64/100

Belarus comes in at 10th place with a score of 64/100. Government officials in Belarus have blocked content and websites, including news outlets. Bloggers and journalists received fines for reporting without government authorization or online extremism.

These are the 10 worst countries for internet freedom. Many individuals, journalists more so, have to rely on VPN or virtual private networks to access the internet and hide their IP address when accessing the internet in these countries.

At the other end of the scale for being among the best countries for internet freedom, Estonia comes out on top with a score of only 6/100, on par with Iceland. Then there is Germany with 19/100, the United States with a score of 22/100 and the United Kingdom with a 23/100 score.