A record number of countries implemented internet blackouts in 2022 Online news

A new report from Access Now and the #KeepItOn campaign shows that 35 countries have hit the kill button in the past year.

In 2022, a record number of countries forced internet shutdowns, which had a “devastating impact on people’s lives”, according to a new report.

Digital rights group Access Now and the #KeepItOn campaign, a coalition of nearly 70 organizations, documented 187 shutdowns as a result of protests, active conflicts, investigations, elections and political instability.

They were reported in 35 countries, the highest number in a year since the groups began collecting data in 2016. report said:

India emerged as the single “biggest offender” for the fifth consecutive year, with at least 84 internet outages in 2022.

India aside, last year also saw the highest total number of outages in the rest of the world to date.

Ukraine has been subject to 22 shutdowns imposed by the Russian military during its sweeping invasion, while Iran followed with 18 amid mass protests across the country.

Since 2020, Ethiopia’s Tigray region and Myanmar’s regions since 2021 have seen the longest blackouts, lasting more than two years.

Felicia Antonio, Access Now’s #KeepItOn campaign manager, said authoritarian regimes and democracies have disrupted the internet to “feed their oppressive agendas by manipulating narratives, silencing voices and enabling their own acts of violence and abuse”.

“Safe Internet access belongs to everyone, and we will continue to confront these attacks on human rights with collective defiance,” Antonio said.

The report’s authors warned that the number of outages is rising again after peaking at 213 blackouts in 33 countries in 2019, before falling to 159 in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Internet is important

The human toll from conflict-related outages is “extremely high,” the report said, with blackouts hampering international humanitarian efforts and limiting access to life-saving information about troop movements and humanitarian corridors.

Criminals have imposed 48 shutdowns in 14 countries to cover up violence and serious human rights violations such as murder, torture, rape or apparent war crimes, whether in conflict zones or during mass protests.

While the impact is particularly profound in contexts where people are most at risk of violence, all internet shutdowns violate human rights.

The cuts widen the gender digital divide, undermining women’s ability to run businesses or access reproductive health information, the report said.

Lack of access to resources, inability to communicate with loved ones, difficulty sending or receiving news, and conducting business are all consequences of disrupted Internet access.

Some governments are becoming “more sophisticated and deliberate” in how they implement shutdowns to target specific groups and minimize the economic fallout.

Criminals also use shutdowns to “force people to alternate platforms and infrastructure where surveillance and censorship are easier to implement.”

Turkmenistan, which has implemented four blackouts in 2022, is reportedly developing a centralized national intranet, suggesting the government will take additional technical measures to assert greater control over digital spaces.

“We call on all stakeholders to contribute to advancing our cause to protect free expression and keep people connected,” #KeepItOn said. “It is clear that the fight against internet shutdowns will continue.”

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