Governments around the world are using the ongoing pandemic to crack down on online dissent according to a human rights watchdog.
Washington-based Freedom House said dozens of countries have cited CV as a means “to justify expanded surveillance powers and the deployment of new technologies that were once seen as too intrusive.” They added that it marks the 10th consecutive annual decline in internet freedom, Barron’s reported.
The expansion of technological systems is enabling governments social control, according to the report.
“The pandemic is accelerating society’s reliance on digital technologies at a time when the internet is becoming less and less free,” said Michael Abramowitz, president of the nonprofit group.
“Without adequate safeguards for privacy and the rule of law, these technologies can be easily repurposed for political repression.”
China was singled out in the report noting, Chinese authorities “combined low- and high-tech tools not only to manage the outbreak of the coronavirus, but also to deter internet users from sharing information from independent sources and challenging the official narrative.”
The report stated this shows a growing trend toward Chinese-style “digital authoritarianism” globally and a “splintering” of the internet as each government imposes its own regulations for citizens.
Freedom House said that of the estimated 3.8 billion people using the internet, just 20 percent live in countries with a free internet, 32 percent in countries “partly free,” while 35 percent were in places where online activities are not free. The remainder live in countries that weren’t among the 65 assessed.
The report cited declines in countries where authorities have imposed internet shutdowns including Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and India, and in Rwanda for its use of “sophisticated spyware to monitor and intimidate exiled dissidents.”