Nov 5, 2019

93% of global voters faced domestic election tampering

Protestors in Taiwan decry mainland Chinese disinformation efforts this summer. Photo: Hsu Tsun-Hsu/AFP via Getty Images

Last year, 93% of people living in a country with an election faced internet-driven election interference from their own government or domestic partisans, according to the 2019 Freedom on the Net report.

Why it matters: With all the focus on foreign governments tampering with U.S. elections, it's jarring to note that the U.S. was one of the nations where domestic actors led election interference in 2018.

Freedom on the Net is a long-standing annual global ranking of nations by relative levels of government interference in the internet.

  • The report is compiled by the human rights advocacy group Freedom House, which this year emphasized the relationship between elections and internet freedom.
  • The researchers outlined three ways that governments and partisans might use the internet to jostle an election: disseminating false and misleading content as propaganda, blocking users from social media or political sites that may sow doubt in the state, or arresting internet users for online political speech.

Between the lines: Freedom House specifically identifies disinformation circulating during Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearing as evidence the U.S. struggles with information operations.

The rankings put U.S. in seventh place out of the 65 countries in the report. (Iceland wins.).

  • Though the U.S. remains a "free" nation, FreedomHouse notes that the U.S. scores declined thanks to increased digital surveillance, including that of immigrant populations and travelers crossing the border.

Go deeper

Internet freedom declines in U.S. and around the world

Reproduced from a Freedom House map; Note: Score based on obstacles to access, limits on content and violation of user rights; Map: Axios Visuals

Rising levels of political disinformation and government surveillance are making the internet less free in the U.S., according to a new report by Freedom House, a democracy and human rights research group.

The big picture: Internet freedom is in decline around the world, according to the report, as governments increasingly use social media to monitor their citizens and spread disinformation at home and overseas.

Go deeperArrowNov 10, 2019

Iran cuts internet during, and after, protests

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

As protests over gas prices erupted last weekend, Iranian officials cut the nation's access to the internet. On Wednesday, according to state media, the government declared victory over the protests. Yet the internet has only begun to trickle back online.

Why it matters: Keeping the internet off prevented global reporting of police abuses and prevents domestic coordination between protestors, Adrian Shahbaz of the human rights group Freedom House told Axios.

Go deeperArrowNov 21, 2019

Internet freedom crumbles as social media becomes tool for autocrats

Reproduced from a Freedom House map; Note: Score based on obstacles to access, limits on content and violation of user rights; Map: Axios Visuals

Internet freedom is in decline around the world, with governments using social media to monitor their citizens and spread disinformation at home and overseas, according to an annual Freedom House report.

The big picture: "What was once a liberating technology has become a conduit for surveillance and electoral manipulation," the authors write of social media. "Sophisticated mass surveillance that was once feasible only for the world's leading intelligence agencies is now affordable for a much broader range of states."

Go deeperArrowNov 7, 2019