In a relatively short period of time, the internet has become an influential arena for public debates about political and social issues. And around the world, many consider free expression in cyberspace to be a fundamental right.
Majorities in 32 of 38 countries surveyed by Pew Research Center in 2015 believe that allowing people to use the internet without government censorship is important. And in 20 countries, at least 80% hold this view. Moreover, across the nations polled, a median of 50% say freedom on the internet is very important.
Support for internet freedom is especially strong in Argentina (71% very important), the U.S., Germany and Spain (each 69%), and Chile (68%). In many countries, young people, those with more years of education and high-income respondents tend to place a higher value on internet freedom.
Even though support for internet freedom is common around the globe, it is not as strong as support for other fundamental aspects of democracy. Across the 38 countries in our study, larger percentages of people say religious freedom (median of 74%), gender equality (65%), honest and competitive elections (61%), free speech (56%) and media freedom (55%) are very important.
However, the findings suggest that as access to the internet continues to spread globally, demands for freedom in cyberspace may grow as well. Countries in which a large share of the public reports using the internet also tend to have greater levels of support for internet freedom.