[11/14/16]  Governments around the world have stepped up efforts to block or censor social media and messaging applications, in a new blow to internet freedom, a watchdog group said Monday.

The Freedom on the Net report by the activist group Freedom House said online freedom declined in 2016 for a sixth consecutive year amid new restrictions on messaging platforms such as WhatsApp in addition to social networks.

“Popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have been subject to growing censorship for several years, but governments are now increasingly going after messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram,” said Sanja Kelly, director of the study.

Messaging apps have become increasingly popular tools for activists, and many of them can offer encrypted communications which make it more difficult for the users to be monitored, the report noted.

“The key reason for the block of these apps is preventing users from disseminating news during periods of unrest,” Kelly said.

The report said 34 of the 65 countries assessed in the report have seen internet freedom deteriorate since June 2015.

Some of the notable declines were in Uganda, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ecuador and Libya, while online freedom improved in Sri Lanka and Zambia and in the United States, due to the passage of a law limiting collection of telecommunications metadata.