Digital Good or Bad News for Government Censors?

This week, the World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF) came out with its rankings of countries for how they best put the “Web to work” in improving human rights and economic development. Digital has also begun to offer greater access to Arabic books,  escaping country-by-country distribution problems. But also last week, an activist from the UAE and a Kuwaiti man were both sentenced to prison time for tweets:

The WWWF's "Freedom and Openness" Map
The WWWF’s “Freedom and Openness” Map

According tot the WWWF report generally focuses on digital as a positive site for “development,” it held up particular red flags about censorship. Report authors found that government censorship of online content, whether creative or political, was on the rise worldwide.


Eighty-one countries were included in the survey.

Although FT‘s analysis of the report has this censorship “spreading from authoritarian regimes to democracies,” there’s little to indicate that authoritarian regimes are the infector. “Democracies” that were particularly called out for targeted political censorship of online content were India, Belgium, and Israel. The report also called out the widespread government use of online spying.

The report — which looks at a number of aspects of internet use — also highlighted the wealth-gap in access. Among nations given the misleading label of “developing,” Morocco has apparently done the best job of providing access, with at least 50% of the population online.

Tunisia is the highest-ranked Arab country on the list (at 44), with a 45 for “freedom and openness,” a 51 for “universal access,” a 53 for “relevant content,” and a 41 for “empowerment.” The United Arab Emirates follows at 45, although with a 74 for “freedom and openness.” Next is Qatar (51), then Morocco (54), Jordan (62), and Egypt (63). Saudi Arabi is 69, and Yemen is last among ranked countries at 81.