Staying secure online in Norway | Internet censorship and what you need to know

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Norway is a European country with a population of 5.3 million. It is a wealthy country where people earn approximately 3500 USD month, one of the highest average salaries in the EU. Unsurprisingly 97% of the population have access to the internet.

Norway is rated at 100 out of 100 in Freedom House 2019 freedom in the world report, making it one of the most free countries in the world.

Political Overview

Norway is a country that enjoys a vibrant multi-party system in which it is very hard for any one party to gain a majority of the 169 legislative seats. This often results in parties forming coalitions. Elections occur every second year, alternating between parliamentary elections and local elections. Norway enjoys a free political system devoid of any substantive corruption.

The judiciary is considered independent and members of the Supreme Court are decided by the King with the help of the Judicial Appointments Board made up of legal and judicial professionals as well as members of the public.

Parliamentary elections are decided by voting that occurs in 19 constituencies, with each country gaining an agreed number of seats in parliament depending on the size and population of that specific constituency. The last parliamentary election occurred in 2017. However, the head of the conservative party, Erna Solberg, has been serving as prime minister since 2013.

In 2017 and 2018, the #metoo movement gained a lot of support in Norway, and certain members of civil society were ousted as well as members of parliament for allegedly engaging in sexual discrimination and sexual misconduct.

Censorship

Norway is a country that has a free and open media that is able to express itself freely without obstacles. Religious minorities and other minority communities such as LGBTQ are free to express themselves and are protected with robust anti-discrimination laws. Women are represented fairly in government, with more than 40% of parliament seats currently filled by women.

The indigenous Sami population of Norway keeps its own legislature as well as being represented in parliament. This allows for active participation in the decision-making process in order to uphold cultural values and to influence national policy.

In 2017, the media won a case in which it was ruled that journalists cannot be compelled to reveal their sources, even if it involves cases involving government institutions, national security, or public bodies. The media are free to print news and protect its sources.

Despite its robust anti-discrimination laws, police reported that in 2017 and 2018 the nation saw an uptick in religiously motivated hate crimes. The majority of those crimes were targeted at Muslim minority member of society, including migrants and refugees.

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Online, Norway enjoys a high degree of freedom with little in the way of censorship. Citizens are also free to use privacy enabling services such as VPNs and Tor.

In addition, they are free to communicate freely online using both blogs and social media, as long as they do not break any laws in regard to discrimination or hate speech. Those laws that are considered positive by human rights activists and do not encroach on people\u2019s freedom of speech in any negative way.

However, since 2015, ISPs have begun blocking certain streaming and torrenting sites that break copyright holders' rights and permit citizens to perform illegal piracy. Those sites include The Pirate Bay, Extratorrent, Viooz, Primewire, Swefilmer, DreamfilmHD and Movie4k.

Although activists, including the Norway Pirate Party, have claimed that this encroaches on people\u2019s freedom to information, the courts ruled that this was a false claim because the content is still available to all citizens via legal means.

Individuals have been targeted for piracy and have been singled out using IP addresses by ISPs on behalf of copyright holders. This has resulted in convictions for file sharing as well as prospective invoicing letters.

Surveillance

Norway enforces strict privacy laws, knows as the Personal Data Act. Those laws define a lot of personal data as sensitive information. This includes IP addresses and other digital markers within its definition of sensitive personal information.

Norway can be understood to impose certain levels of covert national and international surveillance on citizens. This includes surveillance by the police, the military, and the Norwegian Intelligence Service. This is enforced using mandatory data retention laws that force all ISPs and telecoms companies to store records of metadata and web browsing histories for six months. These records are accessible only with a warrant that is granted by a court as long as reasonable suspicion is demonstrated.

As is the case elsewhere, privacy advocates have expressed concerns about what those data retention directives mean for human rights and privacy in Norway.