New Delhi: A study of internet freedom and the level of government manipulation of data on the web has revealed that China fares worst in terms of disinformation tactics employed. India in the same study fares better than all of its immediate neighbours but is far behind the US and most European countries.
Chinese internet users, according to a study conducted by Freedom House - an independent watchdog organisation for expanding freedom and democracy globally - were found to be the most restricted and most compromised in the world for the third consecutive year. The study blamed several factors including increased surveillance on WeChat - the country's largest social app, regulations limiting user-generated news content, licensing for virtual private network (VPN) and action against activists for advocating democracy online.
Tightening of online controls before the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) last month also contributed in the country faring worst in the study. China scored 87 out of 100 - where 100 is the worst score.
India, on the other hand, scored 41 and was deemed 'partly free'. Factors hampering India's net freedom record, according to the study, are people being detained for comments on religious or political issues and several suspension of net service in Jammu and Kashmir. Conversely, what has helped India's rank are increased net access, better speeds and Supreme Court recognising privacy as a fundamental right in an August ruling.
Pakistan has not fared as well and scored 71 - a little better than Saudi Arabia's 72. Reasons for Pakistan's score include clamping down on internet services in Federally Administered Tribal Areas for over a year, stronger censorship and surveillance powers under The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, crackdown on those criticising religious militancy and authorities, etc. The murder of social media personality Qandeel Baloch by her brother for sharing a video on Facebook too was highlighted in the study.
Pakistan is also only one of two countries - with South Korea - to have worse scores for internet freedom than for press freedom. The study says this is partly because individuals are accused of wrongdoing based on social media posts.
Conversely, the countries with the overall best score for internet freedom were Estonia and Iceland - tied at No. 1 rank. Canada had the next best score, followed by Germany, Australia-United States (tie), Japan, Georgia-UK (tie) and South Africa-Italy (tie).