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Digital

Developments in technology has enabled huge expansions of the capacity of citizens and groups to communicate, express, and assemble – capacities that continue to grow worldwide. However, growing in parallel are the methods used by governments to restrict these opportunities, as well as to harness technologies to monitor, limit, and penalise expression – online and off.

Table 9: Digital scores for each region, 2008–18

  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Africa 0.45 0.45 0.45 0.44 0.44 0.44 0.44 0.43 0.42 0.42 0.43
Americas 0.69 0.68 0.69 0.69 0.69 0.68 0.67 0.67 0.66 0.67 0.66
APAa 0.48 0.49 0.47 0.48 0.47 0.46 0.46 0.46 0.45 0.45 0.45
ECAb 0.74 0.74 0.74 0.73 0.73 0.72 0.72 0.71 0.70 0.70 0.70
MENAc 0.21 0.20 0.21 0.25 0.27 0.27 0.26 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25
Average Country Score 0.55 0.55 0.55 0.55 0.55 0.54 0.54 0.53 0.52 0.52 0.53
Notes: a = Asia and the Pacific; b= Europe and Central Asia; c = Middle East and North Africa.

 

Figure 4: 

 

Table 10: Top and bottom five scores for Digital, 2018

Position Country Score
1 Denmark 0.92
2 Estonia 0.92
3 Sweden 0.92
4 Norway 0.92
5 Latvia 0.92
Average 0.53
157 Cuba 0.03
158 Bahrain 0.03
159 Saudi Arabia 0.03
160 Turkmenistan 0.01
161 North Korea 0.00

Around 3.7 billion people have access to the internet. More than 70% of the world’s population live in a country where internet users have been arrested or imprisoned for posting political, social, or religious issues, [1] and around 48% of people live in countries where individuals have been attacked or killed for online behaviour since 2017. [2]

There was a moment of accountability for internet and telecommunications companies in 2018. Facebook even faced a US Congress hearing after a major scandal involving company Cambridge Analytica – the political consulting and strategic communication firm behind the pro-Brexit Leave EU campaign, as well as Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign – in the harvesting of personal information. The scandal brought data protection into mainstream discussion in 2018. In March, it emerged – via ex-Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie – that the personal data of nearly 90 million Facebook users had been harvested by Cambridge Analytica due to poor data protection. The Guardian and The New York Times broke the story, and both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica threatened to sue The Guardian.

The question remains: What is the best way forward to ensure companies, which hold more power than ever, have real and sustainable respect for human rights? The solutions will relate both to the infrastructure, which enables digital communication, and the legal regulation of individual communicators and online outlets and publishers. The latter is dealt with in the Media section of this report .

 

[1] Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2018, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/freedom-net-2018

[2] Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2018, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/freedom-net-2018