Myanmar leads global plunge in digital freedom, report says

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Myanmar saw its internet freedom plummet in the wake of a military coup, according to an annual report released Tuesday, headlining a year that saw a deteriorating environment for digital rights around the world.
Myanmar saw a massive decline in internet freedom after a February 2020 military coup, the 2021 Freedom on the Net report said, headlining a year that saw a global erosion in digital rights. File photo by Xiao Long/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Myanmar saw its internet freedom plummet in the wake of a military coup, a report released Tuesday by U.S. think tank Freedom House said, headlining a year that saw an erosion of digital rights around the world.

The 2021 Freedom on the Net report found a global decline in internet freedom for the 11th consecutive year, as governments censored and arrested users for online speech and weakened data and privacy protections.

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Myanmar's overall score dropped by 14 points on the report's scale of 100, marking the most severe decline ever documented.

"As part of its attempt to crush dissent and maintain power, the military junta shut down internet service, blocked social media platforms and websites, seized control of the telecommunications infrastructure and ramped up intrusive surveillance," the report said.

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The Southeast Asian state, which remains embroiled in a violent internal conflict after its February 2020 military coup, fell to the third-lowest position in a ranking of 70 countries, ahead of only Iran and China in a bleak year for online freedom.

"Free expression is under unprecedented strain around the world," the report said. "In 56 countries, a record 80% of those covered by Freedom on the Net, people were arrested or convicted for their online speech."

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