Perhaps you are part of the lucky and fortunate group of people out there who have unrestricted access to the internet. As you have explored and absorbed all the internet out there you have probably found that the internet gives you instant access to just about everything. You can find an infinite amount of useful information on just about any topic that you can think of as well as equally useless but often hilarious content.
The internet offers cat videos, Area 51 events, and infinite memes. While at the same time you can find tools to help you on your STEM path, videos for DIY products, and articles that help breakdown all that the exciting world of engineering has to offer. However, the internet offers something else. Recent history has demonstrated that the internet can be a powerful medium for the spreading of ideas and activism.
If you are an authoritarian government. You might not like this at all and in most cases fear it. Social media has consistently demonstrated that it is a powerful tool for revolutionaries with one of the most memorable examples being the use of platforms like Twitter and Facebook being central to the uprisings in 2011’s Arab Spring.
To protect against any potential unrest, some of the world’s leading governments have gone as far to censor and restrict the internet for its citizen. As you have probably guessed, today we are going to explore the countries the strictest internet censorship.
Understanding how the internet is censored
If you are an authoritarian government there are multiple different ways to censor the internet. Yet, this is very dependent on the current infrastructure set in place. In very extreme examples, countries like North Korea completely cut off a vast majority of the population from the internet, while only a very small tightly controlled part of the intranet can be accessed by a small portion of society.
Nevertheless, as mentioned above, this is an extreme example. More common examples of internet censorship comprise of techniques like site blocking and content filtering. Authorities go on to block websites that they don't like or that they do not approve of or they find “threatening”.
Techniques like DNS filtering, IP address blocking, URL filtering, completely removing pages from search engine results, and disconnecting the network are all commonly used techniques to prevent any unwanted access to websites. Now let’s jump into the countries with the most censored internet.
You probably saw this one coming. Yes, China does have widespread internet access. Nevertheless, it has one of the world’s most advanced and extensive censorship systems. Commonly used websites that you might have access to over here in the west like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia have all been blocked.
However, it does not stop there. China has made efforts to block any topics that may talk down on the Chinese government. There are also taboo topics like the Tiananmen Square Massacre, pornography, the Dalai Lama, the independence of Tibet and Taiwan, and of course freedom of speech.
Even more so the Chinese authorities go as far as to monitor the internet access for their citizens with the aims to prevent any protests and jail dissidents. It will be interesting to see if the internet will play a role in the current protests taking place in Hong Kong.
A tiny percentage of the Ethiopian population has access to the internet and that small population is heavily monitored. With the introduction of the 2009 anti-terror legislation, authorities have gone on to place huge restrictions on anything online that could be potentially critical of the government. Online speech offenses can get you convicted and thrown in jail.
For the past decade, internet access was rather limited for the Cuban citizens. However, it 2015 the government began its rollout of public Wi-Fi hotspots. Then in 2018, the people of Cuba were given access to a 3G network, which in turn gave Cubans access to the internet through data plans.
First of all access to these internet data plans are expensive for the average citizen. Even more so, the internet is strictly censored in Cuba. Cuban authorities have put a large effort against bloggers that cover Cuban human rights abuses or criticize the political system. Platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp are accessible but are believed to be monitored.
There are only 30 websites available inside the country and the majority of that content goes on to praise the government the leader of North Korea. Even more so, the internet is only used by a very tiny part of the population and is usually restricted to government and military personnel.
The Iranian government has made it very clear that it does not want the West to affect its citizens in any way. One of the best ways to combat Western influences is to block as many major western platforms including but not limited to YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. In short, the Iranian government tightly controls its citizens’ internet access.
Anything deemed anti-Islamic or that might express criticism of the government are also blocked. During times of unrest, websites like Instagram or Telegram are temporarily blocked. Even privacy tools are banned. Even more so, the new government department has made an announcement that it would go on to further restrict the internet of its citizens.
All international traffic in Saudi Arabia is filtered through the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. Any information deemed inappropriate by the government or that poses any potential moral and security issues are usually removed from the public. Any topics or sites that cover Shia Islam, drug use, LGBT rights, pornography, gambling, circumventing the filter and criticism of the Kingdom are a big no-no.
Even more so, progressive activists can be detained for their social media posts, with the government going as far to temporarily block popular western social media sites and commonly used chat apps.
Compared to the other countries mentioned on this list Vietnam does not have a complicated system to monitor citizens’ use of the internet. Yet, the country has very tight control over the flow of information going as far as to dish out extreme punishments with those who have controversial opinions.
Anything politically controversial, as well as critical towards the government are banned. Information that features high levels of violence, pornography, and superstition is also blocked.
The Vietnam government has gone as far to pressure tech companies to remove content that they deemed inappropriate. In short, any content that is deemed antithetical to the government will be banned or blocked. And, any online expression deemed inappropriate can get you thrown in jail.
Do you live in a country that has restricted internet access?