Internet content and websites dealing with LGBTQ issues are also increasingly blocked or taken down on moral grounds across the globe, according to the latest Freedom of the Net report.
Freedom House released the annual comparative assessment of trends in internet freedom in the world on Monday at Google, D.C.. The nonprofit organization collected data from a total of 65 countries and found that 34 of them have been on negative trajectory since June last year.
“Over the past few years, we have seen increase censorship of social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter and YouTube; but what has been different over the past year is that governments have been targeting messaging apps,” said Sonja Kelly, director of Freedom of the Net.
Kelly noted the key reason for this was to prevent private messaging during periods of social unrest and during anti-government protests.
This year’s report also found that social media users faced unprecedented penalties as state authorities more frequently imprisoned users for their posts and the content of their messages. In fact, users in some countries were jailed for simply “liking” offensive posts.
“When we look at the number of countries who arrest social media users and we count them, we have seen an increase of 50% since 2013. Facebook users have been most targeted but that is also in part because is one of the most utilized social media tools,” Kelly said.
Digital petitions or calls for protests were censored in more countries than before, as were websites and online news outlets that promote the views of political opposition groups.
“What we have seen for a number of years is that criticism of the government is a key target for censorship; but in more and more countries, particularly over the past year, we have seen content related to LGBTQ communities being censored,” said Kelly.
Kelly gave an example where LGBTQ-themed emojis were censored in Indonesia earlier this year, saying that some of the cases of government censorship were just “silly”.