NEW DELHI: Nearly 70% of cases of internet shutdowns globally happened in India in 2020, according to a new report by Access Now, a global non-profit that works on digital rights and online freedom. Out of the 155 instances of internet disruptions, 109 were recorded in India, followed by Yemen with six instances.
The report, “Shattered Dreams and Lost Opportunities,” listed at least 29 countries which intentionally shut down or slowed the internet during 2020 despite “increased demand due to the coronavirus”.
“India imposed the lion’s share of internet shutdowns in 2020, topping the global shame list — just as it did in 2018 and 2019,” the report stated, while also mentioning the continuous disruption in Jammu and Kashmir, which did not have access to 4G internet services throughout 2020.
The report criticised the opaque manner in which these shutdown orders were passed and then implemented, and asked for more transparency while going forward. According to Access Now, The most common rationale for a shutdown in India during the year was “precautionary measure”, followed by threat to national security, to curtail the spread of misinformation, among others, it said.
“However, governments rarely mean what they say when it comes to internet shutdowns. When officials say they are using shutdowns to fight “fake news” or hate speech, it can mask an attempt to hide or distort information around political instability, obscure police clashes or targeted attacks, that take place during communal violence, or stop people from organising protests,” it added.