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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

Jan 11, 2022 - Economy & Business

Media experts sound alarm on rise of paywalled content

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It’s a bull market for media companies targeting high-end readers, with Justin Smith and Ben Smith joining the likes of Puck, Air Mail, The Information, Axios, Punchbowl News, and others targeting influential, wealthy individuals with new digital publications.

Why it matters: "In this commercial environment, quality is being supported by paying audiences," said Rodney Benson, chair of NYU's Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. "Obviously, long-term, this is going to have tremendously negative civic effects."

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

Driving the news: The Biden administration has faced rising inflation rates over recent months, which it has labeled as "transitory."

Hope King, author of Closer
45 mins ago - Economy & Business

Investors reset their compass

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

The endpoints of a stimulus-fueled market are being defined.

Why it matters: Conditions that drove excess pricing in riskier assets are steadily being removed, and big swings in the market like those seen today are inevitable as investors try to adjust to the new landscape.