Rising internet censorship in Africa threatens citizens’ freedom, study finds

ONLINE censorship is on the rise as governments around the world impose severe restrictions on citizens’ freedom on the Internet.

This was revealed in a study by Comparitech, a website focused on improving cybersecurity and privacy. The study attributes the global decline in internet freedom to government crackdowns on online pornography and political media.

It shows that 42 of the 53 countries in Africa have applied restrictions on political media while 11 countries have imposed strict control of the Internet to control freedom of expression.

Nigerian authorities have blocked access to Twitter after the platform deleted the inflammatory messages from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nevertheless, Nigeria is among the least censored countries in the world, with 3 points.

Egypt is the only country to restrict VPN after blocking the websites and servers of several VPN providers while South Africa is the only African country to actively shut down torrent sites.

According to the report, Algeria, Cameroon and Chad have increased their removal of political comments for the second year in a row from 2020.

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Torrenting involves downloading files from other users’ devices over a network instead of downloading files to a central server. It is considered legal unless the person torrent copyrighted material.

The annual study, published since 2016, measures the extent to which a country is censored according to six criteria, including torrents, pornography, political media, social media, virtual private network, VPN and messaging / voice over internet protocol, VoIP applications.

Any restriction on any of the six criteria shows that the country is censored.

A country receives one point if a communication medium is restricted but accessible and two points if it is totally prohibited.

A higher score means more censorship. The worst countries for internet censorship are North Korea and China, scoring 11 out of 11, while Iran scoring 10.

Six countries to know Belarus, Qatar, Syria, Thailand, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates each scored 8 points.

Thailand saw its biggest increase in censorship, including the introduction of an online pornography ban that resulted in the removal of 190 adult websites.

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The report further showed that 14 African countries have restrictions on online pornography with a full ban imposed on all pornographic websites by Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Tanzania and Uganda.

The Tanzanian authorities have imposed new regulations that further define pornography as a type of prohibited content.

“All of these countries (in eighth place) ban pornography, have heavily censored political media, restrict social media (bans have also been observed in Turkmenistan) and restrict the use of VPNs,” the study found.

The Comparitech study noted that VPNs still provide a way for many of us to surf the net privately and legally.

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