We think of the United States as the land of the free, but in terms of internet freedom, it turns out we’re on the decline.
The U.S was bumped down on the internet freedom rankings list for 2018, according to a Freedom House report. Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization based in Washington D.C., dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world. The recent report details the status of internet freedoms and personal liberties in the 65 countries that represent the majority of internet users globally.
The U.S. is now in 22nd place on the list, behind Estonia, Iceland, Canada, Germany, and Australia. While this is only down one place from last year, as a nation leading the world on many fronts, it remains concerning that the U.S. is trending backward. Many nations have long looked up to the U.S.—whether it’s for its laws, human rights advocacy, nation-building, or its democracy—but when it comes to internet freedom, censorship is most definitely on the rise.
The repeal of net neutrality and the increase of fake news are major reasons why the U.S. declined this year. The report states the areas of concern for the U.S. as “disinformation and hyper-partisan content,” also known as fake news—a term coined by President Trump.
If you’ve been following the infamous battle to end net neutrality, the fact that the U.S. is slipping in the global internet freedom rankings should come as no surprise. Despite the uproar concerning how non-regulated ISPs would respond when allowed to legally throttle (slow down) or prioritize certain content, the FCC bulldozered its desire to scrap the regulation that ensured all internet traffic was treated equally, preventing the prioritization of one user or service over another. New reports have even proven that ISPs are, now, throttling the content we see, and without regulation, this will likely get worse.
At AnchorFree, we’re passionate about ensuring an open and free internet for all; we’ve partnered with the World Wide Web Foundation to push this initiative in its upcoming “Contact for the Web.”
Advocacy is indeed necessary. Gaining the knowledge and staying up to date on legislation is one way to stay active and keep officials on their toes. Calling your representative and letting them know how you feel about important issues as it relates to the law is crucial. Internet freedom is a basic human right, after all, and while the U.S. is still nowhere near as censored as countries like China or Turkey, we should not be regressing.