For most of us, the Internet is an invaluable tool in our lives, and we can’t imagine a day without the various benefits it provides. For some people, though, experiencing a heavily censored Internet connection is the norm, and there’s not much that they can do about it without landing into some legal trouble.
With European lawmakers now voting in favor of Article 13, it seems like netizens living in EU countries will soon be subjected to the same fate as well!
The highly controversial directive, basically, forces online platforms like Facebook and YouTube to monitor and filter content uploaded by users to prevent copyright infringement. Since the task is impossible to carry out manually, this is where the use of technologies like “upload filters” might come into play.
Considering that such automated filters are unable to differentiate between fair use and satire, experts suggest it will lead to over-blocking of legal content, limiting the right of Europeans to freedom of expression. However, Article 13 goes into effect in two years, so only time will tell how far-reaching the consequences are going to be.
Until then, let’s take a look at the six worst countries in the world in terms of Internet freedom and how you can stay safe:
China is known for its “Great Firewall”, a censorship filter placed by the government to prevent its citizens from searching for or gaining access to objectionable content. As you may have guessed, what does or doesn’t fall in the objectionable category is decided by the government itself.
It, however, mostly includes foreign websites and social media networks as well as any anti-government sentiments. According to recent estimates, more than 10,000 websites are currently blocked in mainland China, pushing citizens to use the rare few VPNs that work within the country to access them.
Iran has an extremely heavy-handed approach when it comes to Internet censorship. There are over 41 million Internet users in the country, but the connection they use is arguably one of the most restrictive across the world. Not only is speed throttling a common occurrence, but also there are limitations on bandwidth.
The government blocks access to thousands of websites through a filtering system, whereas political content is monitored and removed completely. Additionally, since deep packet inspection is used to spy on the online activities of citizens, it’s impossible to use a VPN without getting on the authorities’ radar.
Even though a small percentage of Ethiopia’s population has Internet access, they’re subject to strict surveillance. Internet censorship is so pervasive within the country, and this is particularly true for political content which conflicts with the government.
VoIP apps such as Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp are also blocked in Ethiopia. This leaves the citizens with no other option but to use expensive local telecom software which is strictly monitored by the government.
Before the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Internet access in the country was generally unimpeded by the government. However, afterwards, the Syrian Ministry of Communications tightened their control over the Internet and even has gone as far as shutting it down entirely.
Internet censorship is extensive is Syria. You can’t access controversial social or political content inside the country without getting arrested or suffering harassment at the hands of the government. VoIP is also blocked, and Internet cafes are required to record the browsing habits of their users.
Internet access is not only sparse but also expensive and highly censored in Cuba. Most households aren’t allowed to have an Internet connection of their own, which means citizens have to use government-approved and controlled access points.
Not all websites are accessible in the country, and citizens are prohibited from typing any words that contain political dissent. In such cases, they are shown a pop-up stating their access is blocked due to “security reasons.”
6. North Korea
There’s no such thing as regular Internet connectivity in North Korea. The general population has access to an Intranet provided by the government, which restricts access to just about anything from outside the country. Only some high-level government officials and foreigners are allowed to gain access to the global Internet.
While it’s possible to get an Internet connection in North Korea, the government tends to be very restrictive with regards to who they authorize to go online. Moreover, the vast majority of citizens don’t have Internet access at all, and even those that do, are always being monitored.
How Can You Reclaim Your Internet Freedom in These Restricted Countries?
Regardless of which country you’re using the Internet from, you can rely on Virtual Private Networks (aka VPNs) to enjoy some accessibility. How you may wonder? Well, these tools get you around censorship barriers by replacing your original IP address and using complicated encryption algorithms.
This makes it difficult for your government to see where you’re located or what you’re doing online, thereby allowing open access to the Internet. However, countries that restrict Internet freedom also block access to VPNs for obvious reasons, so don’t forget to choose one which is available in your region. Many people also use VPN services to access the regional restricted content of other regions. For example, an American may connect to a VPN server in the South Africa and get access to South African streaming services such as DSTV or ETV and more.