Freedom on the Net 2017 – iRights.Lab released country-specific report

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The Washington Think Tank Freedom House published its annual report „Freedom on the Net“ again. As in the past, iRights.Lab supported it with an extensive report on the situation in Germany.

The report shows how the Internet freedom decreased in 32 of the 65 investigated countries in the last year. With that, the global trend of the last seven years continues continuously. China is still in the last place after Ethiopia and Syria. Germany is on the fourth place this year ahead of the United States. However, this does not mean the situation has not got worse. One indicator for freedom on the Internet is the „overall score“, which goes from 0 (absolute free) to 100 (not free). Germany’s score in 2016 was 19, in 2017 the score dropped to 20.

Particularly the new Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz gives cause for concern in the area of „Limits on Content“. It was passed with the goal of fighting hate speech and so-called fake news on Facebook and other social media. But experts warn that networks will tend to eliminate more content than necessary in the future without testing it adequately because of the fear of high penalties. However, such a practice would lead to significant limitations on freedom of expression on the internet.

In the category „Violations of User Rights“ the report criticizes the new “BND-law” (about German intelligence service), which was passed in autumn 2016. Civil-rights activists have noted that the law legalizes many practices of secret services that had preciously been carried out unconstitutionally by the disclosures of secret services in the last years. Even representatives of the United Nations consider the BND-law as incompatible with the right to freedom of expression. Meanwhile, there are already actions against the law, including one by the operator of the central network node DE-CIX in Frankfurt, where most of the international data communications in Germany runs. The law authorizes secret services to monitor this node, which will almost certainly lead to the consequence that data of German citizens is available on the servers of foreign secret services. For this reason, many experts assume that the law is in breach of the German Basic Law.

Philipp Otto, Executive Director of iRights.Law and co-author of the country report comments:

„The global development is alarming and the situation is Germany is worrying at least. A creeping process has begun, which leads to a greater limitation of freedom of citizens. This needs to be discussed at the level of society as a whole.“

The global annual report can be found on the Freedom House website as PDF (english, about 10 MB) or in an online version with interactive graphics. The country report is also available for Germany as a PDF (english, about 0.5 MB) and in an online version.