Georgia improves its freedom on the internet index

BPA via Getty Images

BPA via Getty Images

Overall 32 of the 65 countries in the report have seen their internet freedom deteriorate over the past year, most notably in Ukraine, Egypt and Turkey.

"The use of paid commentators and political bots to spread government propaganda was pioneered by China and Russian Federation but has now gone global", USA -based Freedom House President Michael J. Abramowitz said in a statement accompanying the 44-page report.

These efforts included paid commentators, trolls, "bots"―the name given to automated accounts―false news sites and propaganda outlets, according to the 2017 "Freedom on the Net" report by the human rights group Freedom House.

The governments of a total of 30 countries "deployed some form of manipulation to distort online information, up from 23 the previous year". In Turkey, authorities use about 6,000 people to work against government opponents in social networks.

Iceland, Estonia, and Canada scored the highest in terms of Internet freedom, while the United States placed fifth.

Other countries also increased their efforts to censor and manipulate information, the report said. An example is a case in Ukraine where Russian-based services have been blocked, including the most widely used social networking and search engine in the country, in an attempt by Kiev to cope with Pro-Russian propaganda.

Governments in at least 14 countries actually restricted Internet freedom in a bid to address content manipulation.

Freedom House, a global organisation working for the expansion of freedom and democracy, conducted the survey titled "Freedom on the Net" assessing 65 countries including Bangladesh on their levels of internet and digital media freedom. "Democracies should ensure that the source of political advertising online is at least as transparent online as it is offline".

For the third consecutive year, they conclude from Freedom House, China is the biggest Internet freedom violator as a result of the increased Internet censorship, a new law that removes anonymity online and the imprisonment of dissidents using social networks.

Russia, which ranked 15th-worst, saw a decline in Internet freedom bolstered by the "hypocritical link between state propaganda and legal restrictions on the media", while countries like Belarus, which ranked 18th-worst, disrupted mobile connectivity to prevent live-streamed images from reaching mass audiences.

"While the online environment in the United States remained vibrant and diverse, the prevalence of disinformation and hyperpartisan content had a significant impact", the report said.

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