India country with most internet shutdowns for 4th time, 85 in J&K alone: Report

ByDeeksha Bhardwaj
Apr 28, 2022 02:23 PM IST

Apart from India, the others at the top of the list include Myanmar (at least 15 times), Sudan and Iran (both at least five times each)

NEW DELHI: For the fourth consecutive year, India has emerged as the country with the highest number of internet shutdowns for reasons ranging from curbing protests to preventing online frauds, a report released by tech policy think tank Access Now has found.

Image for representational purposes only.
Image for representational purposes only.

Of the 106 shutdowns, 85 were found in Jammu and Kashmir alone.

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“In 2021, authorities deliberately shut down the Internet at least 182 times across 34 countries. India is the world’s largest offender, and blacked out the internet at least 106 times,” the report states.

The report, however, noted that the number is lower than what it was in 2020 — 109. Apart from India, the others at the top of the list include Myanmar (at least 15 times), Sudan and Iran (both at least five times each).

Internet shutdowns topped in Jammu and Kashmir, where authorities continue to impose intentional disruptions that last for extended periods due to the cross-border terrorism threats.

There has been a constant trend in the number of internet shutdowns in the country, usually for law and order, or security considerations, as requested by the home secretaries of states, or the Union home secretary. In 2020, India saw the highest number of internet shutdowns at 109 out of the overall 155 instances across the world.

The report also stated that governments in the Asia-Pacific region implemented at least 129 internet shutdowns in seven countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Pakistan.

“The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology released a report highlighting the misuse of internet shutdowns, and the impact on rights and freedoms. However, it does not altogether condemn their use, and fails to state one of the most important facts of internet shutdowns: they can never be justified,” the report added.

Taking into account countries that have shut down internet during protests, the report highlighted that India is among such countries too. “India is also among at least 18 governments that imposed mobile internet shutdowns during protests, including in a clear attempt to suppress the large-scale farmers’ protests. India also shut down the internet at least four times to stop students from cheating on exams,” the report mentioned.

According to a report released by Top10VPN, a global digital privacy and research group, internet shutdowns cost India $2.8 billion, putting the South Asian nation at the top of the list of 21 countries that curbed citizens’ web access in 2020.

“India, the second-worst-hit nation by the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of overall confirmed infections, accounted for about three-quarters of the $4 billion lost worldwide due to internet curbs. Its losses more than doubled compared to 2019, a report from a UK-based digital privacy and security research group showed,” Bloomberg reported last year.

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