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What Countries Have the Strictest Internet Censorship Regulations?

Many of us take the benefits of the Internet for granted, and it’s hard to imagine life without the connectivity it provides. And yet, for some people, living with a heavily censored and restricted Internet connection is their routine, and there’s pretty much nothing they can do about it that can’t land them in trouble with their governments. Let’s take a look at how the Internet works in some parts of the world.

North Korea

What Countries Have the Strictest Internet Censorship Regulations

Regular Internet connectivity does not exist within North Korea. The country is mostly isolated from the rest of the Web, and access is highly restricted and controlled by the government. While it is technically possible to get an Internet connection in the country, it has to be approved by the authorities, and they tend to be very restrictive in who they allow to get online. Less than 5% of North Koreans have any kind of Internet access at all, and those who can get online access are always monitored. It’s impossible to express any dissent online in the country, as such activities are punished harshly by the state.

The situation has been improving slightly, but there is still a long way to go.


What Countries Have the Strictest Internet Censorship Regulations

China is another country notorious for the way it treats Internet access, and the situation is quite challenging for anyone who wants to visit a large number of popular websites. Many Western sites are prohibited, or tightly regulated, and various specific types of content are not allowed to be viewed by anyone. As can be expected, the government keeps a close eye on the activities of all its citizens, and you can often about someone getting punished because they’ve decided to speak out against them openly.

The Chinese Internet also features many copy sites for various popular Western services – things like YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon don’t exist in China – but they all have their local counterparts that function more or less identically to the original sites but are controlled by the authorities.


What Countries Have the Strictest Internet Censorship Regulations

The government of Iran has a heavy-handed approach to Internet regulation and filtering, and they continue to work hard on the systems that make this possible, imposing more and more restrictions on a regular basis for its citizens. Much of the content presented to viewers is filtered heavily beforehand, with no options to view restricted content without facing harsh punishment.

In fact, Iran is quite controlling with regards to what its citizens can post and see online, and we hear the occasional story of a blogger or an online activist facing jail time for their actions. In some cases, even minor infractions can be quite damaging to a person’s future, leading to a very cautious environment among citizens of Iran who use the Internet on a daily basis.


What Countries Have the Strictest Internet Censorship Regulations

Cuba has a long history of restricting and tracking the Internet use of its citizens, and there’s no shortage of stories coming out of the country that confirm this. Most people wishing to get online are forced to go through special government-approved access points where they can expect all their moves to be carefully monitored and analyzed. The government takes a very restrictive approach when it comes to using the Internet, and even though there has been some progress in this regard in recent years, the situation is still far from pretty.

Statements by the Cuban government imply that the situation is not one of their choosing, but that they’re somewhat forced to go down this way due to onerous restrictions coming from the US, although these claims are unconfirmed and doubted by many. Some speculate that the Cuban government has a stronger interest in controlling the Internet activities of its citizens than is previously thought and that they are attempting to manipulate public perceptions to push their agenda. Both sides of the argument are mostly speculative so far though.

There are plenty of other examples of countries that make it difficult for the average person to have a productive experience online, such as Vietnam, Belarus, Saudi Arabia and more, although the examples we mentioned above are among the more extreme. Using a VPN is still an option for most people in a situation like this, but in some countries, it also comes with a heavy risk of a harsh penalty.


Disclaimer: This feature was contributed by Harold Kilpatrick, and is published in its original form without any major editing. The views expressed by the author are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the editorial board.

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