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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

An increase in network shutdowns, combined with a rise in disinformation campaigns, adds up to another decline in internet freedom in the U.S. and around the globe, according to Freedom House.

Why it matters: It's the 11th consecutive year that the internet has been less free globally and the fifth straight yearly decline in the U.S., the group says in its annual report on the subject.

Among the findings:

Authorities in at least 48 countries aimed to enact new rules for tech platforms over the past year.

  • The greatest declines in internet freedom over the last year took place in Myanmar, Belarus and Uganda.
  • More countries arrested people for nonviolent political, social or religious speech last year than in any previous year.
  • As we've reported, partial or complete internet shutdowns are on the rise and are also increasingly costly to the global economy.

Go deeper: Governments hold upper hand online

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show that the number of countries the report found trying to enact new rules for platforms is 48, not 42, as information Axios initially received had indicated.

Go deeper

Rural online businesses expect a coming broadband boom

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The $65 billion federal boost to expand broadband access in the U.S. will be a boon to the women-run companies on platforms like Etsy and Airbnb, especially as they see an increase in rural businesses.

Why it matters: Expanding high-speed internet access across the country will enable more women to participate in the online economy at a time when women have dropped out of the labor force due to the pandemic.

Dec 15, 2021 - Technology

Internet Association, once a top tech lobby, to fold at end of year

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Internet Association (IA), once the tech industry's top lobbying shop in Washington, representing companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, will close by the end of the year, its board announced Wednesday.

Driving the news: IA's board voted Wednesday morning to dissolve the organization. A source familiar with the situation, who alerted Axios to the pending vote on Tuesday, described it as a formality, with the decision already made.

  • Microsoft's departure, first reported by Axios, made the decision imminent, and put the other members in a precarious financial position. Uber recently left the organization as well.
  • Politico first reported the news that IA would dissolve

Why it matters: IA was once a highly influential group, fighting for policy to help internet companies grow with limited government regulation. It described itself as the "unified voice of the internet economy." That unified voice simply doesn't exist anymore.

  • While the IA has historically avoided working in the areas of antitrust and competition, many of its top members are now in the crosshairs of antitrust investigations and proposed bills around the world. All the while, its members constantly compete with one another.
  • The organization has long worked to promote the importance of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law that shields tech from most liability from third-party posts, but members were increasingly at odds over that policy and legislative paths forward.

Details: IA has seen steadily waning influence in D.C. in recent years, as Axios previously reported.

  • Former president Michael Beckerman is now at TikTok. Current CEO Dane Snowden came from a cable lobbying group.

What they're saying: The source familiar with the situation said Microsoft's departure made keeping the association going unviable, put it in a financial crisis, and that paralysis on big policy issues bogged the organization down.

  • "What was once a leading voice for tech companies is fading into obscurity with barely a whimper and hardly anything to show for itself," one former employee told Axios.
  • “Our industry has undergone tremendous growth and change since the Internet Association was formed almost 10 years ago, and in line with this evolution, the Board has made the difficult decision to close the organization at the end of this year," IA's board of directors said in a statement.
  • "As this chapter closes, member companies remain committed to advancing public policy in support of this mission and will continue to work with stakeholders in other capacities.” 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from the Internet Association's board and reflect that it voted to dissolve the organization.

Updated 42 mins ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.