Nearshore Americas

Online Users Enjoy Greater Freedom in Argentina and Brazil: Report

People in Brazil and Argentina enjoy a great deal of freedom online, although there are a few cases of governments removing offensive web content, according to the annual study of online freedom by Freedom House.

Considering the report, online users are not enjoying so much freedom elsewhere in Latin America. Freedom House has ranked Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia in the list of countries where Internet users are partly free.

The only LAC nation ranked in the list of countries where Internet access is heavily restricted is Cuba.

But there are many countries, particularly in the Middle East, where Internet users are heavily restricted. According to the report, global online freedom declined for a fifth consecutive year largely due to governments’ surveillance and censorship efforts.

Authorities in 40 of 65 countries imprisoned people for sharing information concerning politics, religion or society through digital networks.

The report has praised Argentina’s Digital Law, which classified ICT development and regulation as a public service, established net neutrality protections, and created new regulatory bodies to oversee ICTs.

Over the past decade, internet access too has consistently been on the rise in Argentina. Statistics published by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) showed a 65 percent internet penetration rate in the country by the end of 2014, up from 60 percent in 2012.

“However, there are still infrastructural weaknesses that contribute to a digital gap, especially between urban and rural areas,” the report added.

In Colombia, there are hardly a few cases of content removal, says the report. Moreover, the obstacles stem from some “muddy legislation” rather than onerous governmental policies.

Mexico has experienced dramatic improvements in both internet penetration and quality of access over the last 25 years; for example, average connection speeds increased from 1.08 Mbps in 2007 to 4.5 Mbps in 2015.  The report has however warned that certain provisions in Mexico’s Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law could constitute a significant breach of users’ privacy.

Online users feel free in Brazil, but there are restrictions, says the report. Google consistently cites Brazil as one of the countries with the highest number of content removal requests.

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The report has described Brazil’s electoral law as a primary obstacle to internet freedom in the country. During the October 2014 election, the law was used as a justification for almost two hundred lawsuits and numerous content removal requests.

Brazil’s internet penetration rate reached 57 percent by the end of 2014, compared to 51 percent in 2013 and 40 percent in 2009. Thanks largely to high service price and less competition among telecom operators, Internet access is expensive in Brazil.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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