The worst cases are, not surprisingly, China, Tunisia, Egypt, and other parts of the Middle East. Both Tunisia and Egypt recently tried to pull the plug on the Internet completely during the social media-fueled protest movements there. That led to the United States being criticised by some as hypocritical after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the crack-down in Egypt at the same time her government is trying to gain access to Twitter account information because of the Wikileaks revelations, and the Obama administration is seeking what some have called an “Internet kill switch”, which would allow the government to close down the networks in case of cyberattacks.
But that’s not why Sweden and other Western countries rate lower in the survey, says the website Mashable. They say the censorship in the West is mostly aimed at stopping child pornography and file-sharing of copyrighted music, films, and software.
In its profile of the Nordic countries, the initiative notes that the hunt for file-sharers and fears of terrorism have led to intelligence agencies monitoring Internet traffic, which it says is in conflict with long-held traditions of freedom of expression. This, it points out, has led to local protests. The profile also notes that a survey of global surveillance activity by Privacy International in 2007 characterized Denmark as the only Nordic country that is an ‘‘extensive surveillance society,’’ while Sweden, Finland, and Norway were listed as exhibiting ‘‘systematic failure to uphold safeguards.’’