For the fifth year in a row, India has topped the global list of internet shutdowns in 2022 out of all democracies, according to a report released by international digital rights organisation Access Now in collaboration with the #KeepItOn coalition.
The report revealed that India implemented at least 84 shutdowns in 2022, which is the most by any country in the year. "Authorities [last year] 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 report said while noting that India accounted for 58% of all reported shutdowns globally since 2016.
NEW: Our #KeepItOn report reveals the global resurgence of #InternetShutdowns in 2022.— Access Now (@accessnow) February 28, 2023
Learn how authorities disconnected millions from the internet when they needed it most — setting the stage for this year: 🧵
"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,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, Senior International Counsel and Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now, according to the report.
While noting the triggers for these shutdowns, the report mentioned high-profile events such as protests, conflict, school exams, and elections. "Elections also continue to be a trigger for authorities to shut down the internet or block platforms, with five shutdowns in 2022 tied to elections in Brazil, India, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uganda. Authorities try to control information or quell dissent throughout election cycles...," the report said.
We documented 187 #InternetShutdowns across 35 countries — the highest number of countries ever recorded by the #KeepItOn coalition in a single year. pic.twitter.com/gQzIUaYFo2— Access Now (@accessnow) February 28, 2023
The reasons given for such shutdowns are usually concerns regarding the spread of misinformation and incitement to violence, the report added. "However, the spread of misinformation and hate speech is not an excuse for internet shutdowns, which are often used inpoliticized and arbitrary ways that are “incompatible with international human rights law,” especially as their impact on human rights extends beyond the areas or periods of their implementation," the report said.
Authorities continue to trigger #InternetShutdowns in response to protests, active conflict, school exams, elections, political instability, and other high-profile national events. pic.twitter.com/dX5Bx6vLDc— Access Now (@accessnow) February 28, 2023
After India, Ukraine suffered through 22 shutdowns imposed by the Russian military during its full-scale invasion and occupation. Iran followed with 18 shutdowns, breaking its own annual shutdown record with layers of shutdowns during massive protests around the country, the report said.
It added said that prolonged shutdowns that are usually carried on from previous years continued with full force. In 2022, a record 16 shutdowns carried over from 2021, including a protracted shutdown in Tigray, Ethiopia, a blanket shutdown in regions across Myanmar, and nine continuous platform blocks. Even as 2022 rolls into 2023, another set of 16 shutdowns are still in place in many of the same countries, with 12 of these having lasted at least one year.