Ukraine is partly free on the Net –Freedom House
Ukraine is among the partly free on Net countries as to the access and using the internet, according to Freedom House report. During last 5 years, the situation around the Net using get worsened, as to Freedom House. The authors evaluated Ukraine saying the country has 45 points of 100. As to Freedom House: • The government blocked over 200 websites, and an increasing number of legislative proposals have contained broad provisions for blocking webpages on national security grounds, often without requiring court orders (see Blocking and Filtering). • Law enforcement officers and the Security Service of Ukraine raided the offices of Strana and Vesti, two Ukrainian online news outlets with pro-Russian stances (see Intimidation and Violence). • Ukrainian authorities arrested a number of social media users, while Russian-backed separatist authorities in Luhansk sentenced a blogger to 14 years in prison (see Prosecutions and Detentions for Online Activities). • In June 2017, Ukraine experienced the devastating ‘NotPetya’ cyberattack, which has been traced back to Russia (see Technical Attacks). • In January 2018, some Ukrainian mobile operators received 4G licenses (see Availability and Ease of Access). • Ukraine’s online environment remained tense in 2018 after a sharp decline in internet freedom in 2017. Ukrainian authorities increasingly blocked pro-Russian or pro-separatist webpages, while a devastating cyberattack in June 2017 destabilized government ministries, private companies, and vital infrastructure across the country. • The ongoing conflict and information war with Russia pose significant challenges to internet freedom. In late spring and summer of 2014, Russian and pro-Russian forces occupied the Crimean peninsula and later took control of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. De facto authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) have sought to disrupt or regulate access to telecommunications, and residents in the region often experience internet disruptions. De facto authorities have also pressed internet service providers (ISPs) to take down or block particular services, such as Ukrainian news websites in Donetsk,1 Luhansk,2 and Crimea.3 • Ukrainian authorities have used the ongoing conflict to justify incursions on internet freedom. Several Russian platforms including Vkontake and Odnoklassniki have been blocked since May 2017, and state officials blocked over 200 more webpages during this reporting period alone. An increasing number of legislative initiatives have been proposed that would provide more power to the government to block webpages on broad grounds often without court orders. While the draft laws have not been passed, thanks to pressure from local civil society, these efforts showcase the government’s increasing determination to control the digital sphere. • Content manipulation by trolls favoring both sides of the dispute have flourished on social media, and dozens of journalists, bloggers, and social media users have been prosecuted by both Ukrainian and de-facto authorities. Online journalists, bloggers and citizen journalists also continue to face digital and physical security threats. In June 2017, Ukraine suffered a massive cyberattack that was “felt around the world.”4 Russia is believed to be behind that attack. As part of response, Ukrainian MPs passed a new framework law on cybersecurity. • Ukrainian civil society has a vital presence online. Activists used social media for a range of reasons, including to coordinate volunteer support for the military, stay up-to-date on developments in eastern Ukraine, assist internally displaced populations, encourage government oversight, advocate for human rights, and expose biased or manipulated information online". (Link to Freedom House report regarding Ukraine is available here: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2018/ukraine ) Of the 65 countries assessed, 26 have been on an overall decline since June 2017, compared with 19 that registered net improvements. The biggest score declines took place in Egypt and Sri Lanka, followed by Cambodia, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Venezuela. Internet freedom declined in the United States. The Federal Communications Commission repealed rules that guaranteed net neutrality, the principle that service providers should not prioritize internet traffic based on its type, source, or destination. f the 19 countries with overall score improvements, two—Armenia and the Gambia—earned upgrades in their internet freedom status.Armenia rose from Partly Free to Free after citizens successfully used social media platforms, communication apps, and live-streaming services to bring about political change in the country’s Velvet Revolution in April. Internet controls within China reached new extremes in 2018 with the implementation of the sweeping Cybersecurity Law and upgrades to surveillance technology. he law centralizes all internet policy within the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), strengthens obligations for network operators and social media companies to register users under their real names, requires that local and foreign companies work to “immediately stop transmission” of banned content, and compels them to ensure that all data about Chinese users is hosted within the country. The Cybersecurity Law has been followed by hundreds of new directives—an average of nearly one every two days—to fine-tune what netizens can and cannot do online. Among other steps, authorities have cracked down on the use of VPNs to circumvent the Great Firewall, leading Apple to delete hundreds of the services from its local app store. One of the most alarming developments this year has been the uptick in state surveillance. In the western region of Xinjiang, home to the country’s Uighur Muslim minority, facial recognition technology and other advanced tools are being used to monitor the local population and thwart any actions deemed to harm “public order” or “national security.” Leaked documents and other evidence revealed in August suggested that as many as a million Muslims may be held in internment camps in Xinjiang, where they endure a “reeducation” process meant to forcibly indoctrinate them. Many detainees are held as a result of their nonviolent online activities. Like “terrorism,” the term “fake news” has been co-opted by authoritarian leaders to justify crackdowns on dissent. Deliberately falsified or misleading content is a genuine problem, but some governments are using it as a pretext to consolidate their control over information. In the past year, at least 17 countries approved or proposed laws that would restrict online media in the name of fighting “fake news” and online manipulation. Effectively countering disinformation and violent extremism online will require smart solutions ranging from digital literacy education to partnerships between civil society and tech companies. Yet many of the states mulling new media laws are more concerned about asserting political dominance in the online sphere than protecting their populations from false news. Governments in Iran, Russia, Egypt, Venezuela, Belarus, China, and Cambodia all took steps to silence independent voices, essentially arguing that only the state can be trusted to separate truth from fiction. Even democracies are at risk, as the fervor over “fake news” threatens to propel overreaching restrictions on freedom of expression and the outsourcing of key censorship decisions to ill-equipped and often opaque tech companies. Russia took significant steps over the past year to increase data sovereignty. Lawmakers passed restrictions on virtual private networks (VPNs) in July 2017, ostensibly to prevent users from accessing banned sites that are hosted outside the country. A subsequent bill introduced this year includes fines for VPN companies that allow such access. Other new provisions from the past year require communication apps to register users under their real names, so that they can be identified by law enforcement agencies. And antiterrorism provisions that came into force in July require telecommunications firms and other companies to store the content of users’ online communications for up to six months, in addition to metadata, and provide the Federal Security Service (FSB) with unfettered access to both. Russian authorities blocked Telegram due to its refusal to make encrypted data accessible to the FSB. The most high-profile example of Russia’s enforcement of data sovereignty involves Telegram. The secure messaging app was widely used to hold private conversations in what is otherwise a heavily policed environment. In April, authorities blocked the service due to its refusal to comply with laws that require tech companies to make encrypted data accessible to the FSB. When Telegram used various methods to overcome the initial blocking, the state internet regulator ordered the obstruction of at least 18 million IP (internet protocol) addresses in an escalating game of whack-a-mole, bringing down news sites, smart television sets, and even airline ticketing systems in the process. Telegram’s self-exiled founder, Pavel Durov, had previously sold off VKontakte, Russia’s most popular social media company, amid growing pressure to provide the government with information on its users. With Telegram, he vowed to create new social media technology that would be far more resistant to state control. The governments of France, Germany, Hungary, and the United Kingdom have also ramped up the surveillance powers of their intelligence services with the aim of disrupting terrorist networks. While this is intended to protect citizens’ safety, it often weakens crucial judicial oversight meant to protect their basic rights. Italy passed a law in November 2017 that requires telecommunications operators to store telephone and internet data for up to six years, despite a 2014 EU Court of Justice ruling that such rules constituted a disproportionate infringement on privacy.
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