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.

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