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Countries that Censor the Internet 2024

Internet censorship defined

Internet censorship is a term that refers to the practice, typically conducted by a national or regional government, of deliberately hindering the general public's access to certain websites or online information. Countries that censor the Internet do so on a number of different levels and using a variety of means, including DNS tampering, IP blocking, and keyword filtering. Organizations such as the Open Net Initiative, Freedom House, and Reporters Without Borders monitor trends in internet censorship in different countries.

Internet censorship is a significant issue, even in countries with the most internet users or the highest internet speeds. Freedom House estimated in 2022 that 4.5 billion people on Earth have access to the internet—and that in 76% of those countries, individuals have been arrested or imprisoned for content they've posted online. Censorship suppresses freedom of speech and can enable human rights violations. It can also disrupt the ability of people, groups, and even governments to coordinate their operations, which can be a significant hindrance in both everyday life and especially in times of war or civil unrest.

Top 10 Countries with the Worst Internet Censorship (Freedom House 2022):

Country
IF Total Score 2022
China10
Myanmar12
Iran16
Cuba20
Vietnam22
Russia23
Saudi Arabia24
Pakistan26
Ethiopia27
Egypt27

What Countries Have the Strictest Censorship of the Internet?

Although the internet is designed to enable the free and open exchange of information, some governments do not embrace such goals and instead engage in very strict internet censorship. Countries with high levels of censorship tend to be those which are more totalitarian and/or oppressive. Such countries are typically wary of political dissent and of losing control of the media narrative, which is often state-influenced and heavy with propaganda and/or biased reporting. As such, these countries may censor any unapproved information or websites and seek to disrupt the citizens' ability to use the internet to organize any sort of opposition.

China is famous for having strict internet censorship, voted as the worst in the world by Freedom House in 2022 (and for the seven previous years). Chinese internet censors are very active, blocking some sites entirely and often censoring content almost immediately. Furthermore, the Chinese internet censors are known to monitor what individuals say and post. Several other countries are known to have similarly strict internet censorship, including India, Iran, and North Korea.

Methods of internet censorship and their direct effects:

  • DNS tampering — Internet users in the given country are blocked from viewing entire websites. DNS stands for Domain Name System and DNS tampering refers to the removal of domain names from a country’s list of accessible or available websites.
  • IP blocking — Works similarly to DNS tampering in reverse. Instead of blocking some websites from all users, IP blocking prevents specific user devices or IP addresses from accessing certain material.
  • Keyword filtering — Specific words are filtered out of a nation’s search engines to prevent access to content related to that term.

In addition to the above techniques and more, many countries perform ongoing surveillance of individual users' web accounts and activity, which can lead to their harassment, arrest, or additional oppressive treatment at the hands of government agencies.

Open Net Initiative

The Open Net Initiative divides internet censorship into categories based on the degree to which censorship is happening. However, as some countries' censorship impairs visibility into that country's practices, it is sometimes difficult to determine just how deeply a given country's censorship goes.

  • Pervasive censorship — A significant amount of content in many categories is blocked.
  • Substantial censorship — Fewer categories of content are blocked but the filtering is heavy.
  • Selective censorship — The government will decide on specific websites or categories to censor. Note that the censoring of certain subjects or sites (for example, those that promote child pornography) may be widely approved by society and considered protective rather than oppressive.
  • Suspected censorship — A country behaves as if it oppresses freedom of information flow but it is difficult to detect
  • No evidence of censorship — A nation permits most if not all internet activity.

Countries that censor the internet

Countries that censor the internet typically do so for political and social purposes. Specifically, they endeavor to prevent their residents from speaking freely, which could lead to criticism of the government, from accessing information that could inspire people to act out against the government, and from using the internet to coordinate such efforts.

The organization Reporters Without Borders divides countries that censor the internet into two main categories: Enemies of the Internet and Under Surveillance countries. Enemies of the Internet are those countries which use internet censorship as part of a larger effort to suppress and control their populace. Under Surveillance countries are on the "watch list", but haven't yet reached full "enemy" status.

  • Freedom House rankings include 70 countries as of 2023. It is possible that some countries not currently included in the rankings would place among the 10 worst if they were to join the rankings.
  • Freedom House Internet Freedom rankings are compiled from a number of individual indicators, which can be grouped into three subcategories: Obstacles to Access, Limits on Content, and Violations of User Rights.

Download Table Data

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Country
IF Status 2023
Internet Freedom Score 2023
IF Total Score 2022
IF Obstacles to Access Score
IF Limits on Content Score
IF Violations of User Rights Score
ChinaNot Free91072
MyanmarNot Free1012253
IranNot Free1116641
CubaNot Free2020497
VietnamNot Free22221264
RussiaNot Free21231056
Saudi ArabiaNot Free25241375
PakistanNot Free26265138
EthiopiaNot Free262751110
EgyptNot Free28271495
UzbekistanNot Free25278116
United Arab EmiratesNot Free30281497
BelarusNot Free25281375
SudanNot Free302951510
BahrainNot Free23291567
VenezuelaNot Free293071111
TurkeyNot Free303212108
KazakhstanNot Free3432121210
RwandaNot Free3737131113
AzerbaijanNot Free3738111511
ThailandNot Free393916149
IraqPartly Free4342111715
BangladeshPartly Free4143121811
CambodiaPartly Free4443131714
LibyaPartly Free424472114
NicaraguaPartly Free4245111615
JordanPartly Free4747131717
Sri LankaPartly Free5248122218
IndonesiaPartly Free4749141716
ZimbabwePartly Free5149102318
UgandaPartly Free5150132018
IndiaPartly Free5051132017
MoroccoPartly Free5351172115
LebanonPartly Free505192219
KyrgyzstanPartly Free5253162016
SingaporePartly Free5454191718
GambiaPartly Free5656132419
NigeriaPartly Free6057172518
MalawiPartly Free6057112524
ZambiaPartly Free5958152420
UkrainePartly Free5959182219
MalaysiaPartly Free6159192220
MexicoPartly Free6261182519
AngolaPartly Free5961122819
TunisiaPartly Free5961162617
ColombiaPartly Free6564192521
GhanaPartly Free6564152723
EcuadorPartly Free6464182422
BrazilPartly Free6465202321
PhilippinesPartly Free6165162322
South KoreaPartly Free6767222421
KenyaPartly Free6668162723
HungaryPartly Free6969212424
ArgentinaFree7371192826
SerbiaFree7172222425
South AfricaFree7373172927
ArmeniaFree7274192825
ItalyFree7575212925
United StatesFree7676213025
FranceFree7676232924
AustraliaFree7676232825
JapanFree7777222926
GermanyFree7777232826
GeorgiaFree7678192928
United KingdomFree7979243025
TaiwanFree7879242925
CanadaFree8887233332
Costa RicaFree8588213331
EstoniaFree9393253137
IcelandFree9495253435
showing: 70 rows

How many countries censor the internet?

There are currently 21 countries around the world that censor the internet at a high level, and 32 countries that censor the internet at a medium level.

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