TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan ranked fifth in the world for internet freedom in its first entry on Freedom House's list, while China finished in dead last place for the seventh year in a row.
In Freedom House's Freedom on the Net 2021, Taiwan was among six "new countries" to be included in the listing, along with Costa Rica, Ghana, Iraq, Nicaragua, and Serbia. For its first entry on the list, Taiwan came in at fifth place, thanks to its "vibrant online landscape supported by meaningful and affordable internet access, an independent judiciary that protects free expression, and a lack of website blocks."
Taiwan received a score of 80 out of a maximum of 100, placing it first in Asia. Worldwide, it trailed only Iceland (96), Estonia (94), Canada (87), and Costa Rica (87).
Freedom House lauded Taiwan's leaders for dealing with Chinese attempts at interference with "innovative regulations and democratic oversight of digital technology." It pointed out that users are confronted with disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks hailing from China, while some are subject to criminal prosecutions and fines for online speech.
The report noted that the draft Internet Audiovisual Service Management Act, which was passed by the National Communications Commission (NCC) on July 15 of last year, penalizes internet service providers (ISPs) who fail to block broadcasts from banned over-the-top (OTT) service operators from China, such as iQiyi.com and Tencent Video. The act also requires OTTs who wish to operate in Taiwan legally to register and provide information on the number of subscribers, the sales revenue, and the conditions of use, as well as ensure that content follows NCC regulations to prevent the platforms from being exploited by Beijing to spread disinformation or "other manipulated content."
China, on the other hand, was described by Freedom House as continuing to be the "world’s worst abuser of internet freedom" with a dismal score of 10. The report criticized China for its imposition of "Draconian prison terms" for online dissent, independent journalism, and even ordinary daily communication, as well as censorship of information related to COVID-19 and the further consolidation of power through crackdowns on tech giants.
The Freedom on the Net 2021 report assessed online freedom in 70 countries, accounting for 88% of the world’s internet users. This year's report covered developments between June 2020 and May 2021 and was based on the assessment of over 80 analysts and advisors who determined each country's internet score on a 100-point scale derived from 21 indicators.