When governments wish to limit free speech, they often look to communication tools many people use the most: online social media and messaging apps. Around the world, access to these technologies is sometimes restricted temporarily or for long periods at the whims of government authorities.
Web censorship, arrests, Internet shutdowns and disinformation all form part of a growing catalogue of repression techniques that all contributed to a seven-year consecutive decline in Internet freedom, according to global rights group Freedom House.
Freedom House says WhatsApp was the most commonly obstructed app from June 2016 to May 2017. It was blocked or throttled in 12 out of 65 countries assessed by the organization. Facebook, Twitter, Skype, YouTube, VKontakte and WeChat were also among services targeted across 26 different countries.
Two-thirds of the world’s Internet users live in countries where Internet and media censorship are common. When apps or social media platforms are blocked, it limits an entire population (regional or national) from communicating with family, friends and followers. It’s a heavy-handed approach that can have severe negative consequences.
Countries where social media and messaging apps were blocked
Data source: Freedom of the Net 2017, Freedom of the Net 2016,, Freedom House
*The data applies to the period between June 1, 2016 and May 31, 2017.