Internet freedom continues to stall for many
In the battle for global Internet freedom, there have been plenty of hiccups – restrictive governments in countries like Russia, China and Turkey have prevented citizens from full access to the communication tool since its initial emergence into national culture. Fortunately, continued efforts of citizens and support shown from countries like the United States, which relies on its First Amendment freedom of speech rights for much of the Web's content, has assisted in opening the Internet further to specific users.
Serbia is the most recent in a parade of normally Web-restricted countries to assert their right to expression thanks to the positive reception of civic engagement, while other countries continue to struggle with government policies hindering access to the information highway. Here are the latest trials and tribulations of global Internet freedom efforts and the forces that oppose them:
Major victory for Serbia for freedom-seeking bloggers
According to Global Voices Online contributor Danica Radisic, highly censored bloggers in Serbia launched a reactionary campaign called "Blog Open, Blog Closed" this past summer that has seen some pretty impressive results. Originally held in June, the event included live panel discussions amongst Serbian bloggers that addressed issues like government response to free speech "inciting a panic" in the community, as well as concerns being raised for free expression on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
In retrospect, the event was considered a massive success considering the levels of opposition facing it – dignitaries like head of the EU delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport, US ambassador to Serbia Michael Kirby and more spoke on behalf of Serbian journalists seeking freedom of expression. Though the government was quick to tear down the "Blog Open, Blog Closed" web stream at the time, the panel was attended by over 100 people and has caused ripples in the Internet freedom community since.
Internet censorship remains an issue globally
Though the recent developments in Serbia are encouraging for citizens looking to make a difference in their own culture, there are still numerous censorship efforts across the world to be overcome before Internet freedom can be considered a standard, normalized practice. Tech blog IVPN recently published an interactive map that detailed which countries experienced the most Internet censorship, visualizing a global issue that is rarely addressed on such a large scale. The top five freedom of speech offenders were China, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Egypt, and IVPN developed a specific, analytical system with which to justify the rankings.
"The higher the score in each category, the censorship a country's citizens face," the source explained. "For example, IVPN.net gave China a score of 38/40 for human rights violations, 86/100 for freedom on the Net, 19/25 for obstacles to access and 29/35 for limits to content."
The map makes use of simple visual cues to communicate its message to viewers quickly – the more red a country appears, the more highly censored its Internet culture is. For curious users, the specificity of the interactive tool can be narrowed further into subcategories like "Top User Rights Violators," 'Top Obstacles for Access" and "Top Content Limiters." Though some countries edge each other out in certain respects, the same offenders tend to appear in the top 10 time and time again.
There's always bound to be unique bumps in the road when it comes to a fight for freedom, but advocates from all over the world have consistently put their reputations and even their personal safety on the line to demand this right for themselves and their fellow citizens. While only time will tell if these efforts will normalize Internet freedom across the globe, these impressive awareness-raising campaigns in Syria and abroad are certainly steps in the right direction.