US labeled 'enemy of Internet'

The U.S. government is an enemy of the Internet, according to an annual list released by Reporters Without Borders.

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The press freedom group chided the Obama administration for its surveillance activities through the National Security Agency (NSA), which it claimed have "undermined confidence in the Internet and its own standards of security."

“U.S. surveillance practices and decryption activities are a direct threat to investigative journalists, especially those who work with sensitive sources for whom confidentiality is paramount and who are already under pressure,” the organization said.

The U.S. had never before been included on Reporters Without Borders’ "Enemies of the Internet" list. Other countries listed as enemies include Russia, Iran, Syria and North Korea, as well as the United Kingdom, which was criticized for its Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

Along with the NSA, the GCHQ was implicated in many of the programs unveiled in leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

“The Internet was a collective resource that the NSA and GCHQ turned into a weapon in the service of special interests, in the process flouting freedom of information, freedom of expression and the right to privacy,” Reporters Without Borders said.

According to documents released by Snowden, the NSA actively worked to weaken encryption standards, have private software firms reduce their tools’ security and capture information about the users of major Web companies like Google and Facebook.

Disclosures about the controversial surveillance programs have caused a stir around the world and upset advocates of freedom online.

This week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called President Obama to denounce personally the breadth of the surveillance programs. In a post on his website, he said that the government’s activities are posing a “threat” to the Internet. 

At the same time, the NSA was denying reports that it had posed as Facebook in order to infect targeted computers with malware.

In addition to the NSA, Reporters Without Borders also criticized the Obama administration for launching a “witch hunt” against Snowden and other leakers of confidential information.