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  • Voltaire Staff

India perpetrated most number of internet shutdowns in 2023 globally: Report

Year 2023 witnessed the highest number of internet shutdowns since the record keeping began in 2016, with India perpetrating more than half of such shutdowns at more than 40 per cent -- grabbing the top spot for a sixth year in a row.

A recent report titled "Shrinking democracy, growing violence: internet shutdowns in 2023" by Access Now documented a total of 283 internet shutdowns across 39 different countries.

A total of 116 of such shutdowns were imposed by India which is currently governed by a Hindu right BJP government led by Narendra Modi. Of these 116, 47 instances of shutdowns came from northeasters state Manipur, which was racked with ethnic violence in May 2023.

The shutdowns recorded were the highest in a single year since monitoring efforts began back in 2016.

The instances were up from 82 shutdowns, a striking 41 per cent increase compared to the previous year, 2022, during which 201 shutdowns were recorded across 40 countries.

Conflicts took the forefront as the primary cause of internet shutdowns for the first time since 2016. The intersection of shutdowns with natural disasters emerged as a troubling new trend, according to the report.

Events such as protests, school exams, and elections remained significant triggers, with protest-related shutdowns reaching 63 cases in 2023, nearing the previous high of 65 recorded in 2019.

With protest movements gaining momentum post-COVID-19 and elections underway in nearly half of the world's nations, these cases are under close observation in 2024.

In 2023, four new countries joined the ranks of internet shutdown offenders: Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, and Suriname. Israel and Russia stand out for their role in imposing shutdowns from outside the affected regions, using them as tools of war or to hinder the flow of information, notably in Gaza and Ukraine.

Throughout 2023, authorities persisted in blocking numerous communication platforms, effectively isolating entire nations and targeting specific vulnerable communities particularly evident in the targeting of LGBTQ+ individuals through the blocking of platforms like Grindr, report said.

Even democratic nations, such as India, often advocates of free expression, took to the blocking or banning of certain social media platforms.

In 2023, the Freedom Online Coalition, comprising 39 governments, in a joint statement urged governments to refrain from implementing internet shutdowns during electoral periods, aligning with their international human rights commitments.

In 2023, stakeholders worldwide took unprecedented action to #KeepItOn, demonstrating a unified front against such measures.

In March 2024, the African Commission on Peoples’ and Human Rights denounced election shutdowns in Africa.

Access Now is a non-profit organisation founded in 2009 and focused on digital civil rights.

Formed at RightsCon Silicon Valley in 2016 by Access Now and partners committed to standing up against the increasing threats posed by internet shutdowns, the #KeepItOn campaign helps unite and organize efforts across the world to end digital authoritarianism.

The coalition now represents over 280 organisations from 105 countries across the globe.

Narendra Modi. Image Source: By Prime Minister's Office (India)






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