Freedom on the Net Methodology(draft)
This 2009 pilot Freedom on the Net provides analytical reports and numerical ratings for 15 strategic countries. The countries were chosen in order to provide a representative sample with regards to geographical and regional diversity and economic development, as well as varying levels of internet and digital media freedom. The ratings and reports included in this pilot primarily cover events that took place between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2008.
What we measure
The Freedom on the Net index aims to measure each country’s level of internet and digital media freedom on the basis of two key components – access to the relevant technology and the free flow of information through it without fear of repercussions. Given increasing technological convergence, the index measures not only internet freedom, but also access and openness of other digital means of news media transmission, particularly mobile phones and text messaging services.
Freedom House does not maintain a culture-bound view of freedom. The index methodology is grounded in basic standards of free expression, derived in large measure from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.
This standard applies to all countries and territories, irrespective of geographical location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development.
In measuring digital media freedom, the index is particularly concerned with the transmission and exchange of news and other politically relevant communications, as well as the protection of users’ rights to privacy and freedom from both legal and extra-legal repercussions arising from their online activities. At the same time, the index acknowledges that in the some instances freedom of expression and access to information may be legitimately restricted. The standard for such restrictions applied in this index is that they be implemented only in narrowly defined circumstances and in line with international human rights standards, the rule of law, and the principles of necessity, and proportionality. As much as possible, censorship and surveillance policies and procedures should be transparent and include avenues for appeal available to those affected.
The index does not rate governments or government performance per se, but rather the real-world rights and freedoms enjoyed by individuals within each country. While digital media freedom may be primarily affected by state actions, pressures and attacks by nonstate actors, including insurgents and other armed groups, are also considered. Thus, the index ratings generally reflect the interplay of a variety of actors, both governmental and nongovernmental, including private corporations.
The scoring process
The index aims to capture the entire “enabling environment” for internet freedom within each country through a set of 19 methodology questions, divided into three subcategories, which are intended to highlight the vast range of issues that can impact digital media freedom. Each individual question is scored on a varying range of points. Assigning numerical points allows for comparative analysis among the countries surveyed and facilitates an examination of trends over time. Countries are given a total score from 0 (best) to 100 (worst) as well as a score for each sub-category. The degree to which conditions in each country enable the free flow of news and information via the internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) determines their overall classification as “Free,” “Partly Free,” or “Not Free.” Countries scoring between 0 to 30 points overall are regarded as having a “Free” internet and digital media environment; 31 to 60, “Partly Free”; and 61 to 100, “Not Free”. An accompanying country report provides narrative detail on the points covered by the methodology questions.
The methodology examines the level of internet and ICT freedom through a set of 19 questions, organized into three baskets:
• Obstacles to Access—including governmental efforts to block specific applications or technologies; infrastructural and economic barriers to access; as well as legal and ownership control over internet and mobile phone access providers.
• Limits on Content and Communication—including legal regulations on content, filtering and blocking of websites; other forms of censorship and self-censorship; manipulation of content; the diversity of online news media; and usage of digital media for social and political activism.
• Violations of Users’ Rights—including legal protections and restrictions on online activity; surveillance, privacy; and repercussions for online activity, such as legal prosecution, imprisonment, physical attacks, or other forms of harassment.
Index Checklist Questions
Each country is ranked on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the best and 100 being the worst.