British tech review company Comparitech conducted a country-by-country comparison of internet freedom and censorship, and India's score turns out to be better than most of its neighbours.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being high on internet freedom, and 10 being high on censorship, India scored a decent 4 along with Afghanistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. China had the worst score at 9, followed by Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal at 7, 6 and 5, respectively.
Comparitech scored each country on five criteria, each worth two points - torrents, pornography, news media, social media and VPNs. One point is given if the service is restricted but accessible, and two points for a blanket ban. Thus, a higher score denotes higher censorship.
Click here to have a look at the study.
The worst 10 countries according to this study are North Korea, China, Russia, Turkmenistan, Iran, Belarus, Turkey, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Eritrea.
The highly authoritarian North Korean administration has strict control over every communication channel in the country, and the internet is no exception. While locally made smartphones are readily available in the country, internet services are limited to what the state deems as acceptable - which are few. VPNs, torrents, pornography, political content and social media - services that are ubiquitous elsewhere, are absent in the country.
As for China, VPNs and porn are banned in the country, while social media usage is limited to platforms that are locally made and closely monitored by the the state administration. As a result, western internet companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google are banned in the country. China's blocking of foreign internet services is infamously termed as the Great Firewall. Comparitech also observed that political media's internet presence is heavily restricted, with journalists often facing severe sentencing for voicing dissent online.
As for our neighbour Pakistan, while social media is readily available, pornography and political media face severe restrictions in the country.
India's relatively high score is in stark contrast to the fact that the country is known to have the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world. Comparitech's comparative review focuses entirely on accessibility, and does not include internet shutdowns as a parameter to calculate censorship and internet freedom, which serves as a limitation to the score.
Despite the high number of internet shutdowns, internet in India is highly accessible, with the cheapest data availability in the world. Furthermore, services like Torrent, VPNs and pornography, which are banned in several countries around the world, are legally accessible in India.