In 2020, the year that propelled the world into the digital era, there were 29 countries internationally that shut down or slowed their internet communications at least 155 times.
The usage of the Internet has turned our existence upside down. It has not only revolutionised the way we use to communicate but has now created an unavoidable place in our daily lives. More than a luxury, the Internet is a necessity for most people in the world, especially in the pandemic year when most offline activities turned online. With the arrival of the coronavirus, our Internet connection was the only thing that became umbilical to the outside world. But what happens when few people aren’t able to access this service at hard times?
In 2020, the year that propelled the world into the digital era, there were 29 countries internationally that shut down or slowed their internet communications at least 155 times. According to a new report published by Access Now, a non-profit digital rights group, almost 28 full internet blackouts took place in 2020 that plunged people and, in some cases, entire cities, into “digital darkness”. The report also suggested that most incidents of Internet shutdown took place in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
India led the world in Internet shutdowns:
India has reported the highest number of Internet shutdowns in 2020 and is standing at 109 out of a total of 155 globally. According to the report, around 70 percent of the Internet shutdowns globally happened in India. Internet freedom in India declined dramatically for a third straight year. This is for the third consecutive year that India has topped the global charts in this category.
India continued to top the list of more government-imposed internet shutdowns than anywhere else in the world. These Internet shutdowns were even justified by the authorities as a means to curb disinformation, protests, and communal violence.
Authorities in India shut down the Internet 109 times over the course of 2020. Also, the report by Access Now suggests that almost 90 percent of all the Internet shutdowns in India last year occurred in the region of Indian-administered Kashmir. As per the records, India had the most Internet shutdowns in 2020, with Kashmir experiencing at least one shut down every two weeks. The Internet connection in Kashmir was choked to 2G in order to put down the demonstrations after its special status was revoked.
Most recently, the Internet shut down happened in Delhi during the month of January when protesting farmers took the streets of Delhi and blocked highways in resistance to the farm laws. The Republic Day incident was one of the major causes that the government applied restrictions on the Internet facility in the National Capital. The government argued that the shutdowns were necessary in order to prevent disorder, fake news, and hate speech.
Internet shutdowns in other countries:
In addition to India, the authorities in Yemen imposed at least six full outages, Ethiopia imposed four, and Jordan three. According to the Shattered Dreams and Lost Opportunities report by Access Now, India, Yemen, and Ethiopia had been among the worst disruptors of the internet in 2019.
Apart from these countries around 29 other countries including Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Kenya, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Cuba faced Internet shutdowns.
Myanmar imposed the longest Internet shutdown that ended in February this year in Rakhine and Chin states. While Yemen in the Middle East witnessed the most internet shutdowns in 2020 because of armed conflict and humanitarian crisis. There are many such incidents when parts of different countries faced complete digital blackouts. Such actions by the government impact lives of a lot of people and therefore it becomes important for the government as well to take all perspectives in notice while shutting down the necessities such as the Internet.