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Internet Censorship 2020: A Global Map of Internet Restrictions

Internet Censorship 2020: A Global Map of Internet Restrictions

Internet Censorship 2020: A Global Map of Internet Restrictions


“Almost 54 percent of the world’s population (4.1 billion people) uses the internet. It’s our source of instant information, entertainment, news, and social interactions.

But where in the world can citizens enjoy equal and open internet access – if anywhere?

In this exploratory study, our researchers have conducted a country-by-country comparison to see which countries impose the harshest internet restrictions and where citizens can enjoy the most online freedom. This includes restrictions or bans for torrenting, pornography, social media, and VPNs, and restrictions or heavy censorship of political media.

Although the usual culprits take the top spots, a few seemingly free countries rank surprisingly high. With ongoing restrictions and pending laws, our online freedom is at more risk than ever.

We scored each country on five criteria, each worth two points. One point earned if the content—torrents, pornography, news media, social media, VPNs—is restricted but accessible, and two points if it is banned entirely. The higher the score, the more censorship.

Top 10 worst countries for Internet censorship

  1. North Korea (10/10) – There isn’t anything North Korea doesn’t heavily censor thanks to its iron grip over the entire internet. Users are unable to use social media, watch porn, or use torrents or VPNs. And all of the political media published in the country is created by The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) – the only source permitted to publish news.
  2. China (9/10) – Porn, VPNs*, and Western social media are blocked, while political media is heavily restricted. Journalists often face severe prison sentences if they publish anything that goes against the government. New online regulations mean members of the public can be jailed for simply sharing or commenting on news posts. China’s Great Firewall is one of the most advanced web censorship systems in the world. The only point China claws back is for its torrenting laws (or lack of). Copyright laws aren’t heavily monitored within China, so there isn’t technically a ban on torrenting. However, due to China’s excessive online censorship, torrent websites are restricted.
  3. Russia, Turkmenistan, and Iran (8/10) – These countries heavily censor political media but have different laws when it comes to all other areas.
    • Russia blocks torrenting sites and VPNs* but doesn’t completely block porn or social media. Some of the top porn sites have been blocked in Russia but, according to Russian law, watching porn isn’t illegal (but producing it is). Some social media sites are also accessible but these too are heavily monitored and controlled (users have to register with their mobile phone numbers to remove anonymity). However, with Russia’s plans to build its own internet, these restrictions could become even more severe.
    • Iran also blocks VPNs (only government-approved ones are permitted which renders them almost useless) but doesn’t completely ban torrenting. Pornography is also banned but social media is permitted to some extent. News media is heavily censored.
    • In contrast, Turkmenistan blocks social media and porn but doesn’t have as severe restrictions on torrenting and VPN use.
  4. Belarus, Turkey, Oman, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Eritrea (7/10) – All of these countries score the same due to very similar approaches to internet censorship. Porn is banned/blocked in all of these countries and political media is also heavily censored. Only Pakistan bans torrenting and only Eritrea bans social media, but both are free of restrictions for VPNs unlike all of the other countries which restrict, but do not ban, their use.”


Posted on: April 28, 2020, 6:39 am Category: Uncategorized

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