Estonia enjoys the greatest level of Internet freedom


A woman in Tallinn votes in the Estonian general election on Feb. 28, 2011. Data showed on March 3 that a record number of Estonians cast on Internet ballots in the Baltic state's general election. Estonia is the only parliamentary poll in the world with an online option. Confidential ballots can be sent from any computer provided the user has downloaded special software and logs onto a secure site with an encoded ID card.


Raigo Pajula

The Washington, DC-based NGO Freedom House released on Tuesday its world rankings for the world's most (and least) free countries when it comes to the Internet.

Some might be surprised to learn that Estonia earned the top spot this year.

The small Baltic nation (as shown in the picture) offers its citizens the opportunity to vote online. Recently, Estonia "announced plans to teach computer coding to public school students as early as first grade," according to The New York Times.

Another surprise: The Philippines has a better record on Internet freedom than the United Kingdom.

One reason the UK was 8th in the rankings, the Telegraph points out, is that "the number of UK government requests for users' private data had increased by 25 percent on the year."

Freedom House conducted its study, the third of its kind, in 47 countries. Researchers investigated Internet legislation and practices and tested the "accessibility of select websites" all over the world.

The overall findings suggest “restrictions on Internet freedom in many countries have continued to grow, though the methods of control are slowly evolving and becoming less visible.”

The report is full on interesting points, but perhaps the most salient paragraph comes on page 8 of the report

"Governments and other powerful actors are increasingly resorting to physical violence to punish those who post critical content online, with sometimes fatal consequences. In 19 of the 47 countries assessed, a blogger or Internet user was tortured, disappeared, beaten, or brutally assaulted. In five countries, an activist or citizen journalist was killed in retribution for information posted online that exposed human rights abuses." 

Iran, Cuba, China and Syria earned the lowest spots this year, with Freedom House dubbing these countries "Not Free."

Perhaps that was less surprising.