Freedom of connection, freedom of expression: the changing legal and regulatory ecology shaping the Internet

This report provides a new perspective on the social and political dynamics behind the threats to expression. It develops a conceptual framework on the ‘ecology of freedom of expression’ for discussing the broad context of policy and practice that should be taken into consideration in discussions of this issue.

Over the first decade of the 21st century, the Internet and its convergence with mobile communications has enabled greater access to information and communication resources. In 2010, nearly 2 billion people worldwide – over one quarter of the world’s population – use the Internet. However, during the same period, defenders of digital rights have raised growing concerns over how legal and regulatory trends might be constraining online freedom of expression.

Anecdotal accounts of the arrests of bloggers, the filtering of content and the disconnection of users have sparked these concerns. However, they are reinforced by more systematic studies that provide empirical evidence of encroachments on freedom of expression, such as through the increased use of content filtering.

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The translation of this publication into Arabic was made possible thanks to the contribution of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

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