U.S. Ranks Second in Internet Freedom, Behind Estonia
The United States has the second highest degree of Internet freedom in the world, according to a new study from Freedom House. What country’s ahead of America? Estonia, a country of 1.29 million in northeast Europe.
Why does Estonia top the list? According to Freedom House, it “ranks among the most wired and technologically advanced countries in the world.”
“With a high internet penetration rate and widespread e-commerce and e-government services embedded into the daily lives of individuals and organizations, Estonia has become a model for free internet access as a development engine for society,” reads the report.
Estonia’s commitment to technological innovation in government is especially remarkable considering the former Soviet state’s weak economy following the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Freedom House credits the country’s first independent leaders with putting the country on a track towards economic development through technology and innovation.
“The country’s new leadership. . .perceived the expansion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a key to economic growth and invested heavily in their development,” reads the report.
Update: As a Mashable reader pointed out, NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence was built in Estonia in 2008, resulting in the funneling of funds to improve the country’s IT infrastructure.
Freedom House ranks countries’ “Internet Freedom Status” in three main ways: obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of users’ rights. It also factors in tertiary factors, including internet penetration and blogger arrests. Estonia got high marks in almost every category.
The United States
The United States got nearly as excellent marks, with 78% internet penetration and no notable arrests of bloggers. However, the debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), two bills considered a threat by many Internet free speech advocates, raised some eyebrows.
“Internet access in the United States remains open and fairly free compared with the rest of the world,” reads the report. “Courts have consistently held that prohibitions against government regulation of speech apply to material published on the internet, but the government’s surveillance powers are cause for some concern. In early 2012, campaigns by civil society and technology companies helped to halt passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which were criticized for their potentially negative effects on free speech.”
Freedom House also warned of greater U.S. government interference in the open Internet.
“Several developments in recent years, however, have placed the government and internet freedom advocates at odds over aspects of internet regulation as well as issues surrounding online surveillance and privacy. The United States lags behind many major industrialized countries in terms of broadband penetration, and network operators have challenged recent rules concerning network neutrality. The current administration appears committed to maintaining broad surveillance powers with the aim of combating terrorism, child pornography, and other criminal activity. Moreover, reports have emerged that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is seeking expanded authority to control the design of internet services to ensure that communications can be intercepted when necessary.”
At the bottom of the list were Iran, Cuba and China, while Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Thailand and seven other countries received a rating of “Not Free.”
To read the full report, visit Freedom House. Are you surprised Estonia topped the list? Should the United States be where it is, higher or lower? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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