AI’s Role in Escalating Internet Repression: Insights from Freedom House

In this post:

  • Internet freedom deteriorates for the 13th year; China, Myanmar, and Iran worst.
  • AI aids in online censorship and disinformation globally.
  • Elections in 2024 raise concerns about disinformation’s impact.

In its latest report, Freedom House highlights concerning trends in global internet freedom, with China, Myanmar, and Iran emerging as the nations facing the most significant challenges in terms of access and online movement. This decline in internet freedom has been ongoing for thirteen consecutive years, marking a worrisome trend. Furthermore, the report underscores the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in facilitating public disinformation and online censorship, adding a new layer of complexity to the issue.

The annual report titled “Freedom on the Net” assessed 70 countries, covering 88% of the world’s online population. The study reveals that the percentage of people residing in nations with no internet freedom is growing, with 55 out of the 70 states surveyed imposing legal repercussions, including criminal charges, for online speech. China ranks at the bottom for the ninth year in a row, while Myanmar and Iran follow closely.

China’s internet environment is characterized by the most extensive firewall and stringent surveillance system globally, blocking major social media platforms and Google services. Additionally, Beijing aggressively targets web users employing VPNs to circumvent censorship, and this technology is even exported to other countries like Russia and the Islamic Republic.

In Myanmar, internet freedom has worsened since the military coup in early 2021. Both Myanmar and Iran have handed down death sentences for online expressions or articles, reflecting the extreme measures taken by authorities to control online narratives.

AI’s role in repression and censorship

Freedom House’s report highlights that the decline in global democracy significantly contributes to the erosion of internet freedom. China has effectively promoted the concept of “cyber sovereignty” internationally, further exacerbating the situation.

The report examines a broad range of censorship tactics and emphasizes the growing role of AI in surveillance, censorship, and disinformation. AI’s development in terms of censorship and control is deemed “worrying” by experts, as it increasingly becomes a tool for propaganda and disinformation employed by pro-government officials, analysts, and related companies.

In China, AI is becoming more “efficient” in suppressing digital content and is widely used on major social networks to automatically remove “politically sensitive” content. Beijing is also intensifying its control over content generated by chatbots, ensuring it aligns with government-defined standards.

The dual nature of technology

While technology fuels repression and censorship, it also offers hope for change. The internet played a crucial role in mobilizing protests in China against the “zero-Covid” policy imposed by the government. These protests led to changes in government policies, demonstrating the resilience and power of online mobilization.

Looking ahead to 2024, elections in several major global economies and diplomatic players, including the United States, the European Union, India, and Taiwan, have raised concerns about the potential impact of disinformation and fake news spread through the web. Analysts, experts, and activists are closely monitoring these internal dynamics and their implications for the balance of power and conflict.

Freedom House’s report paints a grim picture of the state of internet freedom in 2023, with China, Myanmar, and Iran facing the most significant challenges. The influence of AI in facilitating censorship and disinformation is a growing concern. As the world approaches pivotal elections in 2024, the impact of disinformation on global politics remains a topic of intense scrutiny and debate.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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