Country Profiles

ONI country profiles offer a synopsis of the findings and conclusions of our research into the factors influencing specific countries’ decisions to filter or abstain from filtering the Internet, as well as the impact, relevance, and efficacy of technical filtering in a broader context of Internet censorship.

These profiles cover the countries where ONI conducted technical testing and analysis. Countries selected for in-depth analysis are those in which it is believed that there is the most to learn about the extent and processes of Internet filtering.

Each country profile includes the summary results of the empirical testing for filtering. The technical filtering data alone, however, do not amount to a complete picture of Internet censorship and content regulation. A wide range of policies relating to media, speech, and expression also act to restrict expression on the Internet and online community formation. Legal and regulatory frameworks, including Internet law, the state of Internet access and infrastructure, the level of economic development, and the quality of governance institutions are central to determining which countries resort to filtering and how they choose to implement Internet content controls. A brief overview of each of these factors is included in the each of the country profiles. Together, these sections are intended to offer a concise, accurate, and unbiased overview of Internet filtering and content regulation.

Each country is given a score on a five-point scale presented in the Results-at-a-Glance box. The scores reflect the observed level of filtering in each of four themes:

  1. Political: This category is focused primarily on Web sites that express views in opposition to those of the current government. Content more broadly related to human rights, freedom of expression, minority rights, and religious movements is also considered here.
  2. Social: This group covers material related to sexuality, gambling, and illegal drugs and alcohol, as well as other topics that may be socially sensitive or perceived as offensive.
  3. Conflict/security: Content related to armed conflicts, border disputes, separatist movements, and militant groups is included in this category.
  4. Internet tools: Web sites that provide e-mail, Internet hosting, search, translation, Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone service, and circumvention methods are grouped in this category.

The relative magnitude of filtering for each of the four themes is defined as follows:

  1. Pervasive filtering: Filtering that is characterized by both its depth — a blocking regime that blocks a large portion of the targeted content in a given category — and its breadth — a blocking regime that includes filtering in several categories in a given theme.
  2. Substantial filtering: Filtering that has either depth or breadth: either a number of categories are subject to a medium level of filtering or a low level of filtering is carried out across many categories.
  3. Selective filtering: Narrowly targeted filtering that blocks a small number of specific sites across a few categories or filtering that targets a single category or issue.
  4. Suspected filtering: Connectivity abnormalities are present that suggest the presence of filtering, although diagnostic work was unable to confirm conclusively that inaccessible Web sites are the result of deliberate tampering.
  5. No evidence of filtering: ONI testing did not uncover any evidence of Web sites being blocked.

The Results-at-a-Glance box also includes a measure (low, medium, or high) of the observed transparency and consistency of blocking patterns. The transparency score given to each country is a qualitative measure based on the level at which the country openly engages in filtering. In cases where filtering takes place without open acknowledgment, or where the practice of filtering is actively disguised to appear as network errors, the transparency score is low. In assigning the transparency score, we have also considered the presence of provisions to appeal or report instances of inappropriate blocking. Consistency measures the variation in filtering within a country across different ISPs — in some cases the availability of specific Web pages differs significantly depending on the ISP one uses to connect to the Internet.

An aggregate view of the level of development for each country is represented by the results of the first four indexes presented in the Key Indicators box: gross domestic product per capita, life expectancy, literacy rates, and the human development index.

Governance is widely recognized to be a key determinant of economic success and human welfare. We therefore also include two measures of governance: rule of law and voice and accountability. These indexes are defined and compiled by researchers at the World Bank using an aggregation of the best available data. The authors of the indexes define them in the following way:

  • Rule of Law includes several indicators which measure the extent to which agents have confidence in and abide by the rules of society. These include perceptions of the incidence of crime, the effectiveness and predictability of the judiciary, and the enforceability of contracts.
  • Voice and Accountability includes a number of indicators measuring various aspects of the political process, civil liberties, political and human rights, measuring the extent to which citizens of a country are able to participate in the selection of governments.

We also include two measures of Internet accessibility provided by the International Telecommunication Union: the digital opportunity index (DOI) and Internet users as a percentage of the population. The DOI is based on eleven core ICT indicators that are agreed upon by the International Telecommunication Union’s Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development. These are grouped in three clusters by type: opportunity, infrastructure, and utilization. The DOI therefore captures the overall potential for and context of Internet availability rather than usage alone. The measure of Internet access, the Internet penetration rate, is simply the percentage of the population identified as active Internet users.

Internet regulation and filtering practices are often dynamic processes, subject to frequent change, though we expect that the political climate and the aggregate view of the issues reflected in these summaries will change more slowly than the specific instances of filtering. As the context for content regulation and the practice of Internet filtering evolve, updates will be made to the country summaries and new countries may be added.