The World Wide Web allows access to information across the globe, whether it’s news, education or entertainment. There are nations though, that severely restrict the internet. The restrictions may be social, like against pornography, or political, like censoring free speech online. A topical example is Russia blocking Facebook and major foreign news outlets reporting the invasion of Ukraine. World Day Against Cyber Censorship, held on March 12, highlights such government censorship and creates awareness about the need for internet freedom. Below, we look at the top five nations which practice strict internet censorship.
Except for a few high-level officials and foreigners, the global internet is restricted in North Korea. A national intranet service named Kwangmyong operates there instead and is accessible to a small percentage of citizens. It features websites dedicated to scientific and government-related content, but the scale of it is restricted to North Korea.
There is extensive internet censorship in China to prevent informational access to or criticism against the ruling party government in the country. Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are not accessible in China. Even VPN services are banned. Critiques of the ruling regime and its policies, like citizens and journalists, are often imprisoned.
Iran is another nation that has strict internet censorship. The government blocks out content critical of its regime, content on religion, politics and women’s rights. Iran also blocks social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, Blogger, Snapchat and YouTube. It also blocked streaming sites like Netflix, as well as sites that feature news, sports, science and health topics, international shopping and pornography.
In its efforts to oppress political opposition, the Syrian government has severely restricted internet freedom in the country. Citizens are allowed access to only a limited amount of data per month and their online activities are monitored. Journalists critical of the regime are routinely arrested and tortured.
Like all authoritarian governments, Belarus too, censors the internet, with the primary purpose of throttling anti-government protests and pro-democracy movements. Many independent news sites have been banned. Buying from commercial websites outside the country is also banned.
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