Global watchdog terms Modi’s India as biggest internet shutdowns offender
March 1, 2023 06:54 PM
Global internet watchdog Access Now termed Narendra Modi’s India the biggest internet shutdowns offender in the world as in 2022, authorities shut down the internet across 35 countries at least 187 times and India shut down the internet at least 84 times — the highest number of any country in the world for the fifth consecutive year.
Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition’s new report under the title of Weapons of control, shields of impunity: Internet shutdowns in 2022, report which reveals and unpacks the global resurgence of internet shutdowns over the span of one catastrophic year for human rights, particularly in India. Read the full report, global snapshot, and Asia Pacific deep dive.
The report said, “Governments wield internet shutdowns as weapons of control and shields of impunity,” said Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now. “In 2022, from targeted blockings in the Jammu & Kashmir region, to knee-jerk shutdowns seeking to crush public protest, authorities in India worked hard to exert control further over India’s online sphere. But, slowly, they’re learning that the world is watching, and people are fighting back.”
Further tightening the grip of Prime Minister Modi’s government over online spaces, in 2022, authorities continued to weaponise internet shutdowns against millions of people and communities in India. Key findings include:
The totals: at least 187 shutdowns across 35 countries globally, 102 shutdowns in 7 countries in Asia Pacific, 84 disruptions in India;
The scope: since 2016, India has accounted for approximately 58% of all documented shutdowns globally;
The targeting: authorities disrupted internet access at least 49 times in Jammu & Kashmir, including 16 back-to-back orders for three-day-long curfew-style shutdowns in January and February;
The triggers: authorities interfered with access during high-profile events such as protests, conflict, school exams, and elections;
The sub-text: while incident numbers were lower than 2021, the central government’s refusal to document and publish shutdown orders and technical challenges in tracking shutdowns likely mean not all disruptions were recorded;
The trends: blocking of online content and applications are contributing to unprecedented increases in censorship;
The impunity: despite a Supreme Court order, and repeated parliamentary recommendations, governments have normalised shutdowns, and federal authorities have refused to create even the most basic mechanisms for transparency and accountability; and
The positives: legislators, courts, industry, and civil society are demanding accountability and government-led change.
In 2022, authorities shut down the internet across the Asia Pacific in: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
“Last year, India shut down the internet more than any other country on earth — 84 times,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, Senior International Counsel and Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now. “That’s 84 attacks on fundamental rights across the world’s biggest democracy. For a country chairing the G20, and on the eve of its pivotal 2024 general elections, these disruptions are jeopardising the future of India’s tech economy and digital livelihood ambitions — truly a global shame.”