According to Freedom House, these are the four nations where Internet freedom has declined the most.
What's more, out of 60 countries surveyed, conditions worsened in 34 and improved in only 16. The Atlantic summarizes the three countries that have worsened the most.
Along with stepping up surveillance, last year Indian authorities arrested at least 11 people for doing things like tagging and liking social media posts within closed groups.
"In 2012, the government ordered ISPs to block hundreds of websites in an effort to minimize religious unrest," Ashley Greco-Stoner from Freedom House explained to me in an email. "In some cases, the blocks affected entire platforms."
Brazil has an electoral law that would be unthinkable for a typical American election season: It bans any campaign ads or videos that "offend the dignity or decorum" of a candidate—including satire.
When one Brazilian published a YouTube video calling a local mayoral candidate an "idiot," in September of last year Brazilian courts ordered the arrests of Google's top two executives in the country for not removing the clip from YouTube.
But that's not all that's happened, unfortunately. Greco-Stoner writes:
Violence against online journalists and bloggers has also been on the rise in Brazil. In February 2012, Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes, editor-in-chief of news website Vassouras na Net, was kidnapped and murdered. In late April 2012, Décio Sá, a longtime political journalist and blogger who wrote for the newspaper O Estado do Maranhão and ran a blog by the name of Blog do Décio, was shot to death while sitting in a bar. In November 2012, Eduardo Carvalho, owner and editor of the Ultima Hora News website, was murdered in connection with his online work. In December 2012, the home of Antonio Fabiano Portilho Coene, owner of the Portal i9 website, was attacked by unidentified gunmen who threw a Molotov cocktail into the courtyard and fired shots on the house.
America's drop was attributed to, as one might expect, the PRISM/NSA revelations. But interestingly, on Freedom House's overall rank, the U.S. still places fourth, just under Germany but above Australia and France. It'll be interesting to see if our ranking slips further in the case of future revelations about online data monitoring. In any case, declines in Internet freedom are never good, particularly not when it puts us in the company of countries that arrest dissenters or restrict access to the web.
Venezuela was not summarized, but the posse led by Clown Maduro doesn't really require further description. The Internet in the U.S. is still listed as "free", but how much more federal intrusion will it take to change that ranking? Consider the unfolding story of Lavabit.
One day last May, Ladar Levison returned home to find an F.B.I. agent’s business card on his Dallas doorstep. So began a four-month tangle with law enforcement officials that would end with Mr. Levison’s shutting the business he had spent a decade building and becoming an unlikely hero of privacy advocates in their escalating battle with the government over Internet security.
Prosecutors, it turned out, were pursuing a notable user of Lavabit, Mr. Levison’s secure e-mail service: Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified documents that have put the intelligence agency under sharp scrutiny. Mr. Levison was willing to allow investigators with a court order to tap Mr. Snowden’s e-mail account; he had complied with similar narrowly targeted requests involving other customers about two dozen times.
But they wanted more, he said: the passwords, encryption keys and computer code that would essentially allow the government untrammeled access to the protected messages of all his customers. That, he said, was too much.
“You don’t need to bug an entire city to bug one guy’s phone calls,” Mr. Levison, 32, said in a recent interview. “In my case, they wanted to break open the entire box just to get to one connection.”
Levison initially gave the feds the encryption keys in written form, which are 2,560 characters long, but that didn't fly. Go ahead and run your business, sir, but all of your encryption keys are ours, and please submit them electronically, or else. And in this Obama administration, you still get to keep your job if you lie to Congress about the breadth of your surveillance or if you wildly overstate the number of terrorist plots foiled by such intrusions.