A U.S.-based rights group says more governments around the world are trying new ways to control and monitor the Internet. But its report says even in countries that limit on line access, people are becoming more creative in resisting government-imposed restrictions.
The Freedom House report examined disparities in Internet freedom in 15 countries based on factors such as barriers to access, content and violations to users' rights.
Assistant editor of the report Sarah Cook says that as the number of people accessing technology has been increasing - in some cases exponentially - the protection and safety of users has been declining.
"You have more and more countries censoring political content, arresting bloggers, sentencing bloggers to prison or taking other kinds of steps like that, that restrict the way in which people are able to use this technology, particularly for communication about political or social issues," said Sarah Cook.
The majority of the countries examined received a partly free ranking including Egypt, Georgia, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Russia and Turkey.
Cuba ranked the lowest overall due to the Castro government's dominant control over access to the Internet. Three other countries ranked "not free" include China, Iran and Tunisia.
Cook says these countries use sophisticated technology to clamp down on material authorities find offensive.
"China, Tunisia and Iran one of the ways they do it is they centralize the backbone of the Internet system," she said. "And that centralization is what enables them to filter so pervasively and monitor a lot."
Freedom House did find one bright spot to its report, which is that civic activism is increasing in many of these countries that impose Internet restrictions. Cook says users are inventing code words for sensitive topics and organizing themselves through social networking sites.
"There is definitely a sense that as people are trying use this more and more to mobilize, especially in ways that the government may not be too happy about, that you have various different kinds of mechanisms and techniques that these governments are using to try and put a stop to that," said Cook.
Ko Htike is a Burmese political blogger based in London. Although Burma is not one of the countries examined in the report, its military government frequently censors politically sensitive Web sites and monitors its citizens. Htike says he gets about 2,000 hits a day from people around the world, even some from inside Burma, where his site is blocked. He says Burmese users risk going to his blog because they want information from outside the government-controlled media.
"If someone from inside Burma, if they want to know about the news and about the opposition groups, or whatever it is about the political news, if they want to know that, they have to get it through the blog and read it in the blog," said Ko Htike. "Because inside Burma there is no freedom of expression, there is no freedom of press at all.
Sarah Cook says she would like to see democratic countries make a more concerted and strategic effort to help and support these ordinary online citizens.