In freedom of online speech, U.S. and Cuba at opposite extremes: Freedom House report
The United States and Cuba are at opposite extremes of Freedom House's
Freedom on the Net 2012 report. According to the New York-based
organization, the United States was ranked the second most "free"
country in the world for online expression, while Cuba was listed as the
second to worst.
Freedom House ranked 47 countries as "free," "partly free," or "not
free" for its 2012 report, which surveyed six countries in the Americas
– Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and the U.S.
While the U.S. scored near the top of the list, Freedom House warned the
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act
(PIPA) — which have been temporarily derailed — had the potential to
threaten freedom of speech online. The report also cited the renewal of
controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act and legal ambiguities about
information stored in the "cloud" as cause for concern.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Freedom House rated Cuba as one of
the worst countries in the world for online freedom of expression. The
report charged that President Raul Castro has taken a different tack
from his brother, Fidel, in dealing with dissident web access, relying
on prohibitively high costs for connectivity and a lack of
infrastructure rather than long-term prison sentences to limit
unregulated use of the Internet.
Despite the Orwellian limitations independent journalists and bloggers
face in Cuba, individuals have found ways around the regime's firewalls.
The report details how young Cubans are turning to Twitter and blogs to
voice their critiques of the government and talk about their daily lives.
Meanwhile, Mexico ranked 19 in Freedom House's assessment and stood out
for the role organized crime played in the country's steep decline in
Internet freedom. Online journalists and bloggers used to enjoy relative
safety but 2011 saw the first drug-related killings of bloggers who
denounced organized crime in cities like Nuevo Laredo.
Mexican officials have also cracked down on the use of social media,
especially in Veracruz and Tabasco where bills were introduced to
criminalize spreading false rumors via social networks like Twitter.
Brazil and Argentina enjoy a relatively high level of online free speech
but their records were marred by aggressive use of the courts to
restrict online speech. In Venezuela, the second lowest scoring country
in the region after Cuba, the biggest threats to online speech were
cyberattacks. The pro-government organization N33, for instance, has
harassed opposition journalists and politicians by hacking into their
Twitter and e-mail accounts.
The report found that freedom on the net does not always translate into
a free press, noting significant disparities between the relative
freedom of online speech and the much more restrictive and dangerous
state of press freedom in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela.
Read the full Freedom on the Net 2012 report here.