New Study: China Ranks Lowest in Internet Freedom

China is “the world’s worst abuser of Internet Freedom,” according to a new report which ranked it last among 65 nations in openness among countries.

“The Freedom on the Net 2015” report published by Freedom House explored ways in which China regulates use of the Internet from strengthening its website censorship capabilities to jailing citizens for making certain kinds of Internet speech.

“The aim of establishing control was particularly evident in the government’s attitude toward foreign Internet companies, its undermining of digital security protocols, and its ongoing erosion of user rights, including through extralegal detentions and the imposition of prison sentences for online speech,” reads the report released this week.

On Wednesday, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported that a new law would allow officials to jail citizens convicted of creating or spreading “false information” online for up to seven years.

The new law goes into effect Sunday and targets people who “fabricate false information about hazards, diseases, disasters or crimes and spread it on information networks or other media, or deliberately spread it on information networks or other media while knowing it is false information, seriously disrupting social orders, will be sentenced to a prison term up to three years, placed under detention or face enforcement measures.”

“In cases where serious consequences are caused, one will be sentenced to a prison term ranging from three to seven years.”

Since 2013, a charge of “Picking quarrels and provoking trouble” has also been particularly used against Internet users.

Last year, civil rights defense lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was given the charge after writing micro blogs criticizing the Chinese government’s policies against the Uihgurs, an ethnic minority.  He’s facing up to 8 years in prison.

This summer, China released a draft law on cyber security. If passed, the law could further legitimize overreaching actions it’s already taken such as shutting down the Internet in large regions as it did in 2009, when riots broke out involving Uighurs in the Xinjijang region.

China is also championing the idea of “Cyber Sovereignty,” a notion which Chinese Cyberspace Administration leader Lu Wei has brought up during meetings with executives of foreign Internet and media companies. Popular American websites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter are blocked in the communist nation.

In the Freedom House report, China came behind Iran, Cuba and Myanmar. North Korea was not part of the study.

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