Earlier this year the World Wide Web Foundation launched the Web Index, a country-by-country global study that measures the impact of the web on the world’s nations and people. Here's a global map of their findings (hint: the bluer the better):
Sweden scored the highest overall in the Web Index in seven different categories, followed by the US and the UK respectively. The Index measures and ranks web readiness, web use and the impact of the web.
Overall the report is encouraging news if you live in a country at the top of the list. But the data reveals some scary trends about much of the rest of the world. Only one in three people are using the web globally, and 30% of countries place moderate to severe restrictions on web access.
New threats to web freedom
The findings led creator of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, to warn that "growing suppression of free speech, both online and offline, is possibly the single biggest challenge to the future of the web."
But it's dangerous and wrong to think that threats to online freedom come only from autocratic regimes. In fact, some of the scariest recent assaults on web freedom have come from the world's most powerful countries – and the agreements they are trying to hammer out together.
According to the Web Index, the US ranks second in the world for internet freedom, but earlier this year the US Congress tried to pass a dangerous censorship bill backed by corporate lobbyists that would have affected the whole world. The Stop Online Piracy Act bill, which was designed to fight copyright breach and counterfeit goods, would have allowed US law enforcement to block entire internet domains. And earlier this year, a collection of developed nations signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which threatens freedom of expression and privacy.
And here's the latest threat: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Negotiated in private and backed by some of the world's biggest businesses, TPP is a wide-ranging trade agreement that would regulate forms of internet use and allow other alarming restrictions (read a profile of TPP here).
The internet has become an indispensable tool of people power – and it's under constant attack from tyrants, big business, and our own governments. It is our job, collectively, to protect it.
Sources: World Wide Web Foundation, Web Index, BBC, Atlantic, Avaaz