The Web in 2014: Less Free, More Unequal

The World Wide Web Foundation has released the 2014-15 edition of the Web Index, the world’s first measure of the Web’s contribution to social, economic and political progress across 86 countries.

The report reveals:

– Web users are at increasing risk of indiscriminate government surveillance. Laws preventing mass surveillance are weak or non-existent in over 84% of countries, up from 63% in 2013.

– Online censorship is on the rise. Moderate or extensive Web censorship now seen in 38% of countries, up from 32% in 2013.

– Online organising leads to offline change. Despite deterioration in the overall environment for press freedom in nearly every country studied, the Web and social media are making a major contribution to sparking citizen action in three in five countries. Meanwhile, in over 60% of countries, women are using the Web to exercise their rights to a moderate or extensive degree.

– True net neutrality remains a rarity. A world-first assessment of net neutrality found only around a quarter of nations effectively enforce clear rules against commercial or political discrimination in the management of Internet traffic.

– Online Gender Based Violence is not tackled effectively. In 74% of Web Index countries, including many high-income nations, law enforcement agencies and courts are failing to take appropriate actions where Web-enabled ICTs are used to commit acts of gender-based violence.

– Almost 60% of the worlds people cannot get online, whilst half of all Web users live in countries that severely restrict rights online. 4.3 billion people have no access to the Web, whilst at least 1.8 billion more face severe violations of their rights to privacy and freedom of expression when they go online. An additional 225 million live in countries where the ability to pay may limit the content and services they can access.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web and founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, said:

“It’s time to recognise the Internet as a basic human right. That means guaranteeing affordable access for all, ensuring Internet packets are delivered without commercial or political discrimination, and protecting the privacy and freedom of Web users regardless of where they live.”

The Index calculation has been significantly revamped, making year on year country comparisons impossible. However, Scandinavian nations once again topped the report’s rankings. States that have high levels of wealth, low levels of inequality, and strong protection for civil liberties – such as top-ranked Denmark, Finland and Norway – are gaining the most social and economic benefit from the Web.

    Web Index 2014-15 Rankings

    High Income Countries      Middle Income Countries     Low Income Countries                
    1. Denmark                 1. Hungary                  1. Kenya
    2. Finland                 2. Argentina                2. Bangladesh
    3. Norway                  3. Costa Rica               3. Uganda


The Web Index 2014-15 report is available at, along with visualisations and all accompanying data.

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