CNN (CNN) – The US telecoms industry has become the largest single source of digital censorship in the world, according to a report from the digital rights group Access Now.
Access Now found that in 2014, US-based telecommunications companies blocked access to some 7.5 billion websites in the United States, and blocked access in the majority of other countries in the Middle East and Africa.
The US-led coalition that ousted dictator Bashar al-Assad used internet censorship as a weapon to shut down dissent, suppress dissent and prevent dissenters from leaving Syria.
“A global blackout is now the only way for an authoritarian government to impose their rule, or to prevent its citizens from exercising their rights,” Access Now Director of Global Digital Policy, Andrew Lewman, told CNN.
“Internet censorship is a weapon that has been used by repressive governments and their proxies to suppress dissent, silence opposition, and silence dissenters.
We must ensure that we have a global response to the threat posed by a growing threat of internet censorship.”
In the report, Access Now looked at how the US telecom and internet giants responded to the crackdown in 2014.
The companies were quick to react and block access, but the internet blackout had a chilling effect on internet use and innovation.
As more countries began to implement the anti-dissent legislation, Access now found that the companies were also blocking access to more content than they could.
This meant that some of the biggest websites, like the Washington Post, CNN, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, The Guardian and the BBC were inaccessible.
Access Now also found that US-owned internet companies were not providing enough support to the millions of people who were blocked from accessing the internet.
In fact, Access found that only 8% of internet service providers (ISPs) in the US provided support to people who had internet access in 2014 — and that support ranged from $20 per month to $500 per month.
However, the report found that internet access was still widely available in some countries, such as Australia, and some countries had the fastest broadband internet speeds.
Access now called for the US government to provide universal access to internet access to all citizens by 2020.
On the other hand, the ISPs could still use their power to restrict access to content, with many ISPs limiting or blocking access based on content or political affiliation.
For example, Verizon blocked access for the Huffington post, The New York Post, and CNN.
But access was more widespread in countries where the internet is slow and internet penetration is low, such a country as India.
Access also found widespread access to VPN services, which allowed users to hide their IP address and not be tracked.
More broadly, Access called for more international and community action, such that the world should develop “a global code of conduct that addresses internet censorship, including through the creation of a common internet infrastructure, a global platform for internet governance, and a universal code of practice for internet access.”