Low scores for Malaysia in global survey on internet freedom

Many countries still have curbs on social media and websites, a survey of internet freedom in 150 countries has found.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia ranks as one of the worst countries for internet freedom, a survey of 150 countries has found.

UK-based cybersecurity firm Comparitech said Malaysia scored 6 out of 10 on the censorship scale (10 being the worst), putting the country in the same category as Laos, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia.

These countries, the study said, have in place restrictions on social media, torrenting, pornography and Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to bypass official blockage, as well as censorship on political reporting.

The researchers conducted a country-by-country comparison to see which countries imposed the harshest internet restrictions and where citizens could enjoy the most online freedom.

It noted that there was no heavy censorship of political media or a complete ban on social media in Malaysia, unlike countries higher up on the list.

There were no surprises as to the countries with the worst censorship — North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan — with scores of eight to 10.

Belarus, Turkey, Oman, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Eritrea scored seven out of 10.

Interestingly, Singapore with its strict supervision of communication networks scored five, slightly better than Malaysia.

When it came to banning or blocking online pornography, the researchers were surprised that the UK and Australia have some restrictions and are now trying to impose even tougher restrictions.

The study found that bans on social media tend to be only for certain periods of time, such as during an election campaign period.

In Ethiopia, the internet was shut down during national exams to curb cheating, while Somalia banned social media when exams were taking place in high schools across the country.

Only a handful of countries restrict VPNs. North Korea, China, Russia, and Iraq are the only countries to block them entirely.

In Iran, VPNs are only permitted if they’re approved by the government, which means they’re not offering the security and privacy many people want, the survey said.