Digital Darkness: India leads the world in internet shutdowns

WATCH:
In light of India’s ranking in global internet shutdowns, watch this explainer about the reasons behind such shutdowns, internet blackouts in other nations, resultant fallouts, and so on. | Video Credit: Camera and editing by Samson Ronald K.; Presented by Saatvika Radhakrishna 

India recorded 116 deliberate internet blackouts in 2023, most of which were found to be in response to civil unrest and State-wide agitations.

Published : May 30, 2024 18:36 IST - 1 MIN READ

For the past six years, India has led the world when it comes to Internet shutdowns. Over 500 shutdowns just in the last five years were recorded, according to a report released by Access Now, a global non-profit organisation focusing on digital civil rights. The report, released in May, revealed the reasons for shutdowns: conflicts, protests, prevention of cheating in exams, etc.

Titled “Shrinking Democracy, Growing Violence”, the report stated that India accounted for 41 per cent of the 283 global internet shutdowns in 2023. Throughout 2023, seven States had over five shutdowns each—41 per cent of all shutdowns lasted for longer than five days. Conflict zones such as Punjab and Manipur saw widespread internet blackouts, with the States’ women unable to report horrific crimes of rape, murder and violence.

Challenges brought on by internet shutdowns included economic fallout as well. The cost to the Indian economy amounted to 118 million US dollars lost in foreign investment in the first half of 2023. According to the report, one single day of shutdown could leave up to 379 people jobless. Major social media platforms also bore the brunt of such blackouts. Facebook was blocked 23 times, Twitter 21 times, WhatsApp 19 times, YouTube 17 times across multiple countries.

India’s alarming ranking in internet shutdowns indicates an attack on freedom of speech. It must be countered as, at the end of the day, the internet is a great democratiser.

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