Broad swaths of the Middle East remain significantly unfree, with Iran and Syria leading that list. However, Tehran has recently made multiple promises to relax restrictions on the Web.
The United States, meanwhile, dropped five points in the wake of this year's revelations about NSA surveillance. The only country to see its ranking fall even further was India, which dropped eight points in the netfreedom index.
As for the swath of blank countries — Freedom House says it carefully selects the states it includes to produce a "representative sample" that's reflective of geography and economic development.