BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 13 March '17

Governments ‘race to find new tools and tactics to silence dissent’

ProtonMail and Amnesty International have joined forces to show how internet restrictions affect people around the world.

With 2 million users in 150 countries, ProtonMail is the world’s largest encrypted email provider, and the privacy tool of choice for many journalists, activists and privacy-conscious everyday users.

Silencing dissent

In 2016, Amnesty International documented 55 countries in which people were arrested for peaceful expression online.

‘The internet is a powerful tool for free speech and activism, but in the wrong hands it can also be a tool for repression. Amnesty International has documented cases of advanced ‘techno-censorship’ across the world, as governments race to find new tools and tactics to silence dissent. The range of cyber censorship and surveillance tactics being employed by governments is getting more sophisticated with each passing year, with dire consequences for freedom of expression.’

SHERIF ESSAYED-ALI
Head of technology and human rights at Amnesty International

Censorship around the world

Each year governments around the world place increasing restrictions on internet freedom.

Using IP address blocking, Turkey and Saudi Arabia currently block over 50,000 and 400,000 websites respectively – including news and social media networking sites. China’s Great Firewall continues to restrict internet to over 800 million users.

It’s becoming an increasingly common practice for governments to shut off the Internet during moments of unrest and protest, as Ethiopia did on more than one occasion in 2016.

Last year several governments also shut down encrypted messaging apps, like Signal in Egypt and Whats App in Brazil.

‘Cyber censorship not only steals people’s rights to freedom of information but can also have the disastrous effect of hampering creative and scientific development needed for a brighter future.’

DR ANDY YEN
Co-founder and CEO ProtonMail

Privacy and human rights

Cyber censorship is further exacerbated by the indifference from some of the biggest tech companies towards their users’ privacy. Last year, Yahoo confirmed that it cooperated with the NSA to implement a special surveillance software to scan all its users’ emails for the agency’s use.

‘Amnesty International and ProtonMail want people who believe in a free internet to take action. The tech firms developing the architecture of the internet need to build in stronger security, with end-to-end encryption for example, that we can use to protect our rights to privacy and free speech online. The decisions made about the nature of the internet will affect our societies for a generation to come.’

SHERIF ESSAYED-ALI
Head of technology and human rights at Amnesty International

On 21 October 2016, Amnesty International warned that tech companies like Snapchat and Microsoft are failing to adopt basic privacy protections on their instant messaging services, putting users’ human rights at risk.

Only 3 of 11 tech firms examined in Amnesty International’s ‘Message Privacy Ranking’ provide end-to-end encryption by default on all their messaging apps.

Click here for Amnesty International’s campaigns to beat censorship and protect free speech.