5 Countries That Are More Restrictive Than China
It’s an unavoidable truth that not all internet is created equal. The worldwide web is not quite the global phenomenon many believe it to be. Geo-blocking is a concept in which countries place restrictions on the websites available for social, political or even religious reasons.
While many consider China as the worst internet black spot in the world, it’s merely one of the many that offer native users a reduced service. While it tops the chart for number of blocked sites—about 1.3 million—there are many other countries where general internet access, activity monitoring and punishment severity are much, much worse.
Here are five of the greatest enemies of the internet in the world.
This tiny and often forgotten country in northeast Africa hit number one for worst internet. Eritrea has a turbulent past and terrible reputation for human rights. It gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after 30 years at war, and tensions remain high. The United Nations has even accused the government of crimes against humanity.
Unsurprisingly, this makes Eritrea one of the most repressive countries in the world. Communications of all types are highly restricted, and the internet is virtually inaccessible. Only 1 percent of the population goes online, and there are as few as 100 internet cafes in the whole country. Further than this, there are no free media outlets of any kind; the single television channel and newspaper are controlled and provided by the government.
2. North Korea
North Korea is perhaps one of the most secretive countries in the world. Very little news comes out of its borders and even less gets in. The harsh regime restricts citizens in almost every aspect of their lives. The internet is no exception to this rule. Most of the country has no access at all, and those who do are limited to a government-controlled intranet called Kwangmyong that is highly censored.
In place of social media and international news, North Koreans can only access national propaganda and detailed updates on the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un. With as few as 30 known sites, other content includes ministry and tourist information, alongside native recipes and films.
Cuba has a history of turbulent relations with the U.S. Unfortunately, this has meant heavy sanctions and restrictions on the country both internally and externally. Since 1958, embargos on weapons, commerce and finance have rocked the country. Although the Obama administration began working to reestablish diplomatic relations in 2014, the ongoing effect on Cuba’s interior is undeniable.
One clear repercussion has been on telecommunications. The country has virtually no broadband, and their mobile network can’t handle web access. Private access requires a hard-to-attain permit, and public spots are limited and pricey; there are only 237 WiFi points in the country. If you can get online, then service is somewhat restricted; you can’t access some of the more obscure social media and alternative news sites. However, the main barrier here is being able to access and afford to go online at all.
Like many Middle Eastern countries, Iran is famed for its strict religious rules and government imposition of Islamic Law. Since the Shah of Iran was overthrown in the late 1970s, an Islamic republic formed under the control of the Ayatollah. What was once a relatively liberal and open-minded Muslim country quickly reverted to a strict and punishing theocratic regime.
This drastic change also applied to the internet, with almost half of the 500 most popular sites and 27 percent of the whole internet, making the blocked list. Aside from obvious domains such as pornography, news, arts, shopping, sports, business and science websites also have been pulled down.
What sets Iran apart is the severity of punishment served for breaking the blocks. In 2014, the government arrested and sentenced six Iranian teenagers to 91 lashes and a year in prison, simply for making a YouTube video dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy.”
Syria is on everybody’s lips of late. It seems the raging internal war shows no signs of stopping, and foreign interference is causing just as much destruction. With such incredible instability on the ground, it’s unsurprising that the internet has become a powerful resource, one that the government is trying its very best to shut down.
Widespread blackouts are now a common occurrence, with the national service going down more than ten times yearly since 2013. In the same time frame, strict regulations were imposed on bloggers and independent news networks. Regular arrests began on site owners deemed to jeopardize national unity, and all cybercafés started to record identity and usage stats for the authorities. Furthermore, cyberattacks led by the government have been injecting malware into the computers of activists via a Trojan on Skype.
The internet will always be a political tool and therefore seen as a threat by stricter regimes. While China is the commonly considered an enemy of the internet, these listed countries pose just as much threat to the freedom of the web.
Furthermore, they’re not the only ones. If your nation is one that suffers restrictions or you know of another place worth mentioning, we’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below with your thoughts and ideas.