In January 2011, Egyptian activists, inspired by a successful uprising in Tunisia, began organizing a demonstration using Facebook. In a matter of days, thousands of protesters – who learned about the event through the social media platform – gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest the longstanding Mubarak regime.
Then, in an attempt to quash civil unrest, the Egyptian government soon took the bold step of cutting off the country’s internet access. As the size of protests swelled from thousands to millions of people, the Mubarak regime quickly realized their mistake: never cut off a millennial’s internet access.
Mubarak was ultimately forced to resign after just 18 days of massive protests, but in that time Egypt’s Arab Spring demonstrated two major things: (1) the incredible organizing power of the internet, and (2) the how quickly a government could slam the door on the free flow of information.
The Egyptian government was able to quickly and effectively shut down the chokepoints that connect its citizens to the outside world. Etisalat, for example, is a centrally located routing system that could see up to 58% of Egypt’s IP addresses.
In other words, Mubarak was essentially able to blockade every website in the world by making a few simple phone calls.
A New Era Of Internet Censorship
Egypt’s dramatic internet shutdown became a new template for other precarious regimes, but also sparked a broader global conversation around online censorship.
Today’s infographic comes to us from WhoIsHostingThis and it provides a detailed look at varying levels of internet censorship around the world today.
Internet users in North America and Europe enjoy relatively unfettered access to online content, while most countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East have some level of censorship. Torrenting is restricted in almost every country in the world, with a notable exception being Switzerland, where a laissez-faire approach is applied to downloading content for personal consumption.
It’s also worth noting that this map does not address government surveillance, which is ubiquitous even in countries with high levels of internet freedom.
The Anti-Information Age
If you want to liberate a country, give them the internet
–Wael Ghonim, Egyptian internet activist
Much of the world’s population accesses an internet that is at least partially censored. Countries have different motivations for restricting access and filtering content. Below are a few high-profile examples.
When most people think of internet censorship, China springs to mind. This makes sense as the country has a small army (upwards of 50,000 people) monitoring internet activity at all times. Also, much like Egypt, the government forces all online traffic through a mere three central routing systems. This makes it easy for censors to sift through all data entering and leaving the country.
China’s censorship apparatus is so advanced, it can take a very granular approach to repression and enforcement.
The country’s swelling blacklist of 100,000 websites, coupled with harsh penalties for any whiff of anti-government sentiment, have created an extremely restrictive environment for Turkish internet users.
In 2016, the government of Ethiopia blocked access to social networking sites to prevent cheating during the university entrance exam period.
Unauthorized surfing of the internet is a dangerous activity in the Hermit Kingdom. The primary smartphones, tablets, operating systems, and browsers used in the country were all developed by the government, and content on the 5,000 or so accessible websites is tightly controlled.
Slipping Through the Firewall
Even when censoring measures are pervasive and effective, people continually find ways to slip between the cracks. For years, people have used proxy servers and virtual private networks (VPNs) to access content beyond their country’s censorship wall, but censors are getting better at discovering proxy servers and simply blocking them as they would any other site.
As a result, newer techniques are gaining popularity:
Steganography is the science of hiding information. Basically, an innocuous file like an image can be stealthily encoded with information to evade detection by censors. Even changing a single pixel on a series of images can be used to relay a message, provided the recipient knows what to look for.
This circumvention tool uses partnerships with ISPs and other network operators to provide Internet freedom to users. Rather than trying to hide individual proxies, whole networks outside the censored country can become a conduit for the free flow of information.
Visualizing the World’s Top Plastic Emitting Rivers
Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans – much of it through our river systems. See which rivers are polluting the most.
Visualizing the World’s Top Plastic Emitting Rivers
Every year, approximately eight million metric tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans – the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic every single minute.
Every plastic fork and bottle cap bobbing along the surface of the ocean has made its way to the ocean from dry land at some point. As it turns out, the hydrological cycle that keeps water circulating around the planet is also an effective means for trash to hitch a ride from our riverside cities to the open ocean.
As today’s unique, vintage-themed map – via John Nelson at ESRI – visualizes the shocking amount of plastic emitted by major rivers in the world.
It would be hard to overstate plastic’s influence on modern life.
Unfortunately, when plastic is finished doing it’s job, only 10% of it ends up being recycled. Instead, much of the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced each year ends up in the ocean, congregating in places like the Pacific Garbage Patch.
Plastic discharge is especially pronounced in large population centers along large rivers – particularly in rapidly urbanizing regions in China, Indonesia, and Nigeria.
Waste management practices are limited to non-existent in many of Asia’s fast-growing urban areas, so it comes as little surprise that 14 to the top 20 plastic emitting rivers are located on that continent.
The mighty Yangtze – China’s largest river – supports a population of over 400 million people and is the most prolific emitter of plastic waste on the planet. Over 1.5 million metric tons of plastic is unleashed into the Yellow Sea from the river each year.
Stemming the Tide
Plastic emissions data makes one point clear – China is the key to decreasing the volume of trash entering our ocean ecosystems.
The good news is that the Chinese government has recognized the problem, mandating garbage sorting in nearly 50 cities and setting a target for at 35% recycling rate by 2020. A positive first step in the battle to stem the tide of plastic entering ocean systems.
Upward Momentum: Charting a Year of Skyscraper Construction
Nearly 150 skyscrapers were completed around the world last year. Find out which cities and regions are growing skyward the fastest.
Ever since the first towering spires broke through the clouds in New York and Chicago, skyscrapers have remained a potent symbol of economic might.
The tallest buildings require vast amounts of materials, expertise, and capital to make them a reality, but the cities that add these landmarks to their skylines gain prestige and send a powerful message to competing economic centers.
Skyscraper Construction in 2018
Where are the most skyscrapers popping up? Let’s take a look at regional hot-spots around the world.
Note: For the purposes of this article, “skyscraper” will refer to buildings 656 feet (200 meters) or more in height.
China is Flying High
For well over two decades, China has led the world in skyscraper construction, and 2018 was no exception.
The country’s fixation on urban growth and continued economic success is producing tall buildings at a staggering rate. Last year, a mind-boggling 89 skyscrapers were completed in 28 different cities around China.
To put this building boom into perspective, China completed more skyscrapers in one year than New York City’s entire stock of 656ft and taller buildings.
In 2018, no city reached for the stars quite like Shenzhen. The city, which is a hub of China’s high-flying tech sector, now has the second-most skyscrapers in the world, surpassed only by Dubai.
Shenzhen isn’t just building a lot of skyscrapers, it’s building extremely tall ones too.
In 2017, for example, the ribbon was cut on the massive Ping An Finance Center, which is currently the 4th tallest building in the world. Last year alone, four new towers cracked the 1,000ft (300m) barrier.
While China’s scale is hard to beat, other cities in the region are also undergoing dramatic changes, particularly in Southeast Asia. Malaysia and Indonesia completed a combined 13 new skyscrapers, and the Vincom Landmark 81 was added to Ho Chi Minh City’s growing roster of unique skyscrapers.
While there are two skyscrapers under construction in Japan – one in Tokyo and one in Yokohama – none of them were completed last year.
A New Era of American Skyscrapers
After a two-decade lull in skyscraper construction, the United States is embracing taller buildings again. Last year alone, the U.S. added 14 new skyscrapers into the mix, particularly in New York City, where construction cranes dot the horizon. In the past decade, NYC has added 25 new skyscrapers to its iconic skyline.
This trend is showing no signs of slowing down. Between now and 2022, 44 skyscraper projects are expected to be completed in the United States, with the vast majority being built in the Big Apple.
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