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Expand chart
Data: Freedom House "Freedom of the Net 2021" report; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Internet freedom around the world has dropped for the 11th consecutive year, according to an annual report from Freedom House, a non-profit focused on expanding freedom and democracy.

Why it matters: The findings suggest that a broader shift in power from tech companies to nation states over the past year has resulted in "a record-breaking crackdown" on freedom of expression online.

Details: The report finds that government officials in 56 of the 70 countries measured have arrested or convicted people for their speech online. (The 70 countries measured account for 88% of the world's internet users.)

  • In total, 21 states blocked access to social media platforms, typically amid political turmoil, protests and elections.
  • Speech on Facebook, the largest of all social media apps globally, has by far been targeted the most by government officials. Countries with autocratic regimes generally tend to target social media more frequently.

The big picture: The findings reflect a broader global challenge of balancing the promises of the internet and social media with broader risks to society — most notably, the erosion of truth.

  • Last week, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two journalists, Maria Ressa and Dmitri Muratov, who risked their lives to speak truth to power in their native countries of the Philippines and Russia.
  • Ressa has been an outspoken critic against Facebook for its failure to combat misinformation.

What to watch: More governments globally are introducing regulations to take back power from tech firms, but the report authors note that "users understandably lack confidence" that those efforts will protect their rights.

Go deeper

Oct 12, 2021 - World

U.K. COVID lockdown delay cost thousands of lives, report finds

Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

The delay of the U.K.'s first coronavirus lockdown and the government's failure to prioritize social care is one of the country's worst "public health failures" and led to thousands of avoidable deaths, British lawmakers said in a report Tuesday.

Driving the news: The inquiry was aimed at discovering why the U.K. "did significantly worse in terms of covid deaths than many countries" in the early days of the pandemic, according to the the report, compiled by the Health and Social Care Committee.

Oct 12, 2021 - Podcasts

Social media is having a Big Tobacco moment

Senators at the Facebook hearing last week used an analogy we’ve all heard before — Big Tech is having a Big Tobacco moment. Are the harmful effects of social media sites like Facebook and Instagram that clear cut?

Axios Re:Cap talks with Axios’ chief technology correspondent Ina Fried about how Big Tech compares to Big Tobacco.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
7 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Key clean power provision likely won't survive in Dems' spending bill

A construction worker walks along a dirt road at the Avangrid Renewables La Joya wind farm in Encino, New Mexico, on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Cate Dingley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pillar of Democrats' plans to speed deployment of zero-carbon electricity is likely to be cut from major spending and tax legislation they are struggling to move on a party-line vote, per multiple reports and a Capitol Hill aide.

Driving the news: The New York Times, citing anonymous congressional aides and lobbyists, reports that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has told the White House he "strongly opposes" the Clean Electricity Performance Program.