Which Countries Are the Worst-Rated for Censorship and Surveillance in the World?

Scott Repasky
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Is The Internet Really Free?

The government does everything it can to monitor its citizen's activities on the Internet, but not every country's sources for the information are the same. How free is the internet in a country? Is it easy or hard for the government to listen in on your conversations and read your emails? It's a big question to tackle, and there is no one answer. There is no crystal ball that you can look into, and no organization that issues scores.

Whether your goal is staying anonymous while surfing blocked sites or snooping on spammers, there are several factors to consider when determining how difficult it is to bypass Internet censorship.

The Worst-Rated Countries For Censorship And Surveillance

According to a 2016 Freedom House report, around 65 percent of the world’s internet users live in countries with high levels of government censorship and surveillance. However, not all countries regulate the Internet as a bad as some other countries. Some of these nations continue to be included in the “Enemies of the Internet” list.

Top Surveillance Nations

Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Syria are identified as the top surveillance states in the world. These countries monitor and restrict access to specific online content and monitor both the metadata and content of online communications.

Social Media in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is ranked as the 4th most censored country in the world. Due to its laws prohibiting free expression, the country can fine or jail anyone who uses the Internet to “disrupt the public order.” Saudi Arabia also restricts Internet use on public networks to access only a few governmental websites.


The Syrian government applies strict filtering to limit its citizen’s access to the Internet and only allows a few state-run websites. However, some citizens find ways around the censorship by using proxy servers or trying different search algorithms. These servers can also be blocked.


In the first two questions on Censorship and Surveillance we discussed the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act of 1958 and the Broadcasting Services Act of 1992, which allows the government aggressive powers to censor and monitor the media and the public.

An alternative definition of censorship is "the suppression of ideas that are dangerous to the community". How does this differ from the first definition? A key aspect of censorship is the government's ability to control what is deemed to be dangerous and inappropriate for the community, and what is therefore acceptable. This power gives the government the ability to basically decide what the public should see and hear.

In the third question we took a look at the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA); a government body entrusted with the responsibility of regulating the internet.

The first question questioned the validity of government regulation of the content of the internet. It highlighted the process and legality of filtering and monitoring the internet for banned material as well as the prosecution of individuals who are alleged to have visited websites containing banned material. The second question focused on the mechanism of filtering and monitoring of the internet. It mentioned that the ACMA can ask telcos and internet service providers (ISPs) to block websites that contain prohibited material. The ACMA can also request that the ISPs monitor users and report to the ACMA when prohibited websites are accessed.