India Leads Global Internet Shutdowns for Sixth Year Straight: Report

India Leads Global Internet Shutdowns for Sixth Year Straight
India leads global internet shutdowns for the sixth year in a row, impacting economic and human rights. Learn more about the reasons and implications of these shutdowns.

India has once again topped the global list for the most internet shutdowns, marking the sixth consecutive year it has held this position. According to a recent report by Access Now, India accounted for 84 of the 187 internet shutdowns worldwide in 2023, maintaining its leading status in a trend that raises significant concerns about digital rights and economic impacts.

Persistent Internet Blackouts

The report highlights that the majority of these shutdowns occurred in the Indian-administered region of Jammu and Kashmir, which alone experienced 49 internet blackouts. These shutdowns are frequently attributed to efforts to maintain public order during periods of political instability, protests, and to prevent cheating during examinations. The economic repercussions of these shutdowns are profound, particularly in regions heavily dependent on internet access for commerce and communication​.

Reasons Behind the Shutdowns

The Indian government often justifies these shutdowns on grounds of maintaining security and preventing the spread of misinformation and incitement to violence. For instance, internet services were suspended in Haryana following sectarian violence that resulted in fatalities. Similarly, during protests in Maharashtra, authorities imposed internet blackouts to control the situation. Critics argue that such measures are disproportionate and undermine fundamental rights, including freedom of speech and access to information​.

Economic and Social Impact

The economic impact of these shutdowns is substantial. In Jammu and Kashmir, a prolonged internet blackout in 2019-2020 resulted in an estimated loss of $2.4 billion. These disruptions not only affect local businesses but also hinder essential services and everyday activities, forcing individuals to relocate or find alternative means to conduct their work and access services​.

Global Context

Globally, the number of internet shutdowns has been rising, with 2023 seeing a record number of countries implementing such measures. Following India, Ukraine and Iran were notable for their frequent shutdowns, primarily due to ongoing conflicts and efforts to quell protests. The practice of imposing internet shutdowns is not limited to these regions but spans various countries responding to civil unrest, political instability, and even to secure examination environments​.

Human Rights Concerns

International human rights organizations argue that internet shutdowns violate international laws and norms. These shutdowns often have far-reaching effects on human rights, impacting not only the targeted regions but also the global digital community. The ability to verify facts and counter misinformation largely depends on internet access, making these blackouts particularly damaging in times of crisis​​.

Call for Policy Change

Advocacy groups like Access Now are urging governments to adopt policies that protect internet access and prevent arbitrary shutdowns. They emphasize that maintaining open and secure internet connectivity is crucial for economic growth and the protection of human rights. There is a growing call for global action to address this issue and ensure that internet access remains uninterrupted, even during periods of political or social unrest.

India’s continued leadership in the number of internet shutdowns highlights a critical issue at the intersection of security, governance, and human rights. As the world’s largest democracy and a significant player in the global digital economy, India’s approach to internet governance will have lasting implications both domestically and internationally. The ongoing debate underscores the need for balanced policies that safeguard security while upholding the fundamental rights of citizens.

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Sovan Mandal

With a keen editorial eye and a passion for technology, Sovan plays a crucial role in shaping the content at PC-Tablet. His expertise ensures that every article meets the highest standards of quality, relevance, and accuracy, making him an indispensable member of our editorial team. Sovan’s dedication and attention to detail have greatly contributed to the consistency and excellence of our content, reinforcing our commitment to delivering the best to our readers.

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