The Free Internet Project

Legal Efforts

Methodology

For our Legal Efforts project, we analyze a country's laws or legal protections in 3 major categories:

  1. Individual rights related to free speech, privacy, and access to the Internet;
  2. ISP safe harbors; and
  3. net neutrality.

We do not attempt to determine how "free" the Internet is in a particular country. That determination we leave for people to decide. Our focus instead is on the level of legal protections in each country. While other issues or rights could be added to this list, we have chosen to concentrate on these 3 major categories as representative of the legal issues countries should address to protect Internet freedoms.  

In addition to our descriptive analysis of the laws of each country, we assign one of 4 colors to each country on the world map:

 Green indicates a country has laws protecting all or nearly all of the 3 major categories: (1) Internet rights (speech, privacy, and/or access), (2) ISP safe harbors, and (3) net neutrality.

 Blue indicates a country has laws to protect most of the 3 major categories--(1) Internet rights (speech, privacy, and/or access), (2) ISP safe harbors, and (3) net neutrality--but the country leaves some issues to the market to decide instead of having laws to address them.

 Yellow indicates a country has laws to protect some of the 3 major categories--(1) Internet freedoms (speech, privacy, and/or access), (2) ISP safe harbors, and (3) net neutrality--but the country has substantial gaps in protections or implementation of the laws.

 Red indicates a country has Internet censorship or a lack of legal protections for Internet freedoms.

We also consider available evidence that a country has failed to implement its own laws with adequate enforcement. For example, if a country has a law that guarantees Internet access or free speech but fails to provide for such rights or engages in censorship, that failure is considered in our assessment.    

No system of assessments or evaluation is perfect--ours included. First, as mentioned above, other variables, such as due process, could be added to the list of considerations. Second, some countries may present close calls between two categories. Third, our view is shaped by our education and training, mainly in the United States.  In order to improve the accuracy of our assessments, we strive to obtain third party reviews of our analysis from lawyers who were trained in the respective countries. And we always welcome your reaction and suggestions.

Ultimately, the color coding of a country is not as important as understanding the actual laws or measures a country has in place to protect Internet freedoms. The qualitative assessments cannot be conducted with mathematical precision. We encourage you to read our descriptive summaries for each country, plus the links to the actual laws and commentary we have provided. Understanding the law (not a country's color coding) is the most important goal of this Project. 

Sources

For our review, we try to review the laws or decisions (or English translations of them) on our own and, if possible, also consult with lawyers or professors in the respective countries.

We also routinely consult the following publicly available sources (listed in no particular order): 

WIPO Lex for national laws

U.S. State Department Human Rights Report 

Freedom House, Report on Freedom on the Net

Kelly/Warner International Defamation Law Database

Stanford Center for Internet and Society World Intermediary Liability Map 

Wikipedia: Censorship by country

Wikipedia: ITU Internet penetration figures

Status of Net Neutrality Around the World

EU Law 

Council of Europe country analysis 

Openforum Academy, Net Neutrality in the EU - Country Factsheets

​We consult other sources as well, including news articles, legal articles, and blog posts. We do not provide links to every article we have read or relied on, but instead concentrate on providing links to the text of the laws (if available).