Internet Freedom

Creating informed netizens across all of RNW’s major regions

FreeWeibo app © Will Photography


Does your government know all about your porn watching habits? Is Facebook a great tool for organising protests or does it make you an easy target for state surveillance? How can you access an uncensored internet?

From viral videos to censorship, from surveillance to cyber war, the internet presents both opportunities and dangers. With stories, blog posts, videos and tips, RNW helps young people navigate the online world.


RNW believes its main themes – democracy, good governance, human rights and sexual rights – are just as relevant online as offline.

  • The internet is heavily filtered, monitored or even blocked in countries like China, Zimbabwe, Syria and Cuba.
  • A growing number of governments manipulate online discussions, as in China (with its notorious 50 Cent Party), Cuba, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Venezuela.
  • Chinese bloggers, lawyers, and activists who had large followings on social media were detained in 2012 – one of the worst crackdowns on freedom of expression in recent memory. Several were sentenced to long prison terms, many reported being beaten, deprived of sleep, or otherwise abused.
  • In a newly emerging phenomenon, bloggers and citizen journalists have been physically targeted by security forces while reporting from the field during periods of unrest or armed conflict.

(Source: Freedom House)

Where and who

People aged 18-30 in all our regions: Latin-America, China, the MENA region and Africa. Stories are published on the websites of RNW’s regional desk websites, and distributed via local partners.

Content is redistributed by local content partners such as (Africa), MSN Arabia, Masrawy (Egypt), Hespress (Morocco), China Radio International (China), (China) Animal Político (Mexico), Sin Embargo (Mexico), Blogosfera Cuba (Cuba).


Young people’s reactions to stories about Internet Freedom:

“In China, state media lie every day, so social media are increasingly becoming the only source of information about topics like food security and social justice for ordinary people. Without social media, we can’t get properly informed. We don’t waste time on the internet!” 香港飞虎队 reacts to a RNW blog post on social media platform Tencent Weibo.

“The more they try to control and watch, the more it will encourage people to destroy the handcuffs – the people watching us forget that we are a generation with a lot of skills and capabilities that they will be unable to control. We still live in an era of restrictions on freedom and of not taking human intelligence seriously.” Hanan Ibrahim Jack (Sudan)




Index on Censorship, a London-based organisation which promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression worldwide, recently named RNW partner FreeWeibo as one of the four nominees for its 2014 Digital Activism Award.

Watch in action

On Sina Weibo, China’s biggest social network, politically sensitive content is censored. A group of Chinese cyber-activists document and publish all such censored posts on their alternative social network: FreeWeibo. FreeWeibo launched the FreeWeibo mirror site which has proven unblockable to Chinese censors so far.

Take action

More Internet Freedom

Languages used in project

English Chinese Spanish French Arabic

Media types

RNW cartoon icon
RNW blog icon
RNW infographic icon
RNW photo icon
RNW video icon
RNW audio icon

Contact info

Send an e-mail to Robert Molenaar of the internet freedom department