Has AI really disturbed online freedom ?

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As the usability and accessibility of platforms based on artificial intelligence (AI) technology increases, it seems to benefit the general public, but different governments of the world have started using these technologies for information control and various types of censorship, according to a study report.

According to a recently published report by the American organization Freedom House, the graph of internet freedom is in decline for the 13th year in a row.

In the Freedom on the Net 2023: Repressive Power of Artificial Intelligence report, it is claimed that recently AI technology has played a supporting role in spreading misleading and false information in some cases and has also helped to increase the power and efficiency of digital repressive governments. The organization has prepared this report based on various aspects of Internet freedom in countries with 70 different political backgrounds and governance systems.

Among those included in the report, the state of internet freedom in Iran is deteriorating at the fastest rate due to internet shutdowns and social media bans to control protests. Citizens of 55 out of 70 countries have faced lawsuits and legal action due to content shared online, while governments in 41 countries have formally joined the process of shutting down websites citing social, political and religious reasons.

According to the report, China is leading both in the practice of taking legal action against those who express their opinions online and in shutting down websites citing social, political or religious reasons. “China continues its record of being at the bottom of the internet freedom list for the ninth year in a row as it consistently practices both of the above,” the report said.

The conclusion of the report is that the Internet freedom situation in the Philippines, Belarus, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and other countries along with Iran continued to decline last year. Similarly, attacks on freedom of speech through the Internet have also increased significantly in the last year. In 41 countries, including Myanmar and Iran, individuals and organizations have faced legal hassles and attacks for their views expressed online. Not only that, but in some cases even lost their lives, the study showed.

The growing and easy use of AI has made it easier for various countries to control information and expression. In 22 out of 70 countries, the government appears to have partially or fully controlled platforms that are legally injurious to their interests. AI and social media are also making it easier for them to control and monitor their citizens’ online activities, the study said. The organization concludes that the world’s democracies will have to face even greater pressure in the coming days due to the controlled use and misuse of technologies such as AI, so policy-makers should take timely action.

Among South Asian countries, the study assessed the level of internet freedom in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The least independent is given a score of zero and the most independent is given a score of 100 while India is said to be partially independent with a score of 50.

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