The number of internet users arrested or mistreated for posting has increased worldwide.
More specifically, the number of countries where internet users were arrested or abused due to their posts reached a new record between June 2020 and May 2021, according to a report by the US non-governmental organization Freedom House.
The most notable incidents of this period are the internet outages in Myanmar and Belarus, but the rights of internet users have been restricted worldwide for the eleventh consecutive year, the NGO said.
In its report, Freedom House values the freedom enjoyed by Internet users in various countries, taking into account restrictions on Internet access or the presence of pro-government "trolls" trying to manipulate Internet chats.
"This year, internet users in 41 countries have been physically assaulted in retaliation for their online activity," the report said, noting that it was the highest number since retaining data.
Among the examples cited by Freedom House is a student in Bangladesh who had to be hospitalized after being beaten because he was suspected of "anti-government activity" on social media. Another incident reported is that of a Mexican journalist who was killed for posting a video on Facebook accusing a gang of murder.
The authors of the survey point out that in 56 of the 70 countries surveyed, citizens were arrested or convicted for their online activities, a record 80%.
The military junta that seized power in Myanmar on February 1 has been widely criticized for cutting off internet access, blocking social media and forcing technology companies to hand over personal user data.
There have been internet outages before the Ugandan elections in January and after the controversial presidential elections in Belarus in August 2020.
In all, within a year, 20 countries periodically blocked Internet access for citizens.
Iceland tops the list of countries with the most internet freedom, ahead of Estonia and Costa Rica, as it became the first country in the world to make internet access a fundamental right of its citizens.
On the contrary, China is considered the country that respects the freedom of speech on the Internet the least and the one that suppresses the most dissident users.
Globally, the report's authors accuse governments of taking advantage of technology business regulations to justify repressive measures.
At the same time, they criticize countries such as India and Turkey for their legislation that forces social media to withdraw any content that is considered offensive or may affect public order.
In many countries, antitrust laws are being drafted to limit the influence of tech giants such as Google, Apple and Facebook, a move that Freedom House sees as justified.