The cost of Internet shutdowns in India, in charts

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According to the Tech Policy think tank Access Now, India for the fourth year in a row recorded the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world in 2021.

Internet Shutdowns in India
Source: Livemint

Between 2016 and 2021, internet services faced varying restrictions in at least 567 instances in India. This is more than half of the 931 such incidents recorded globally. 

Note: Access Now defines an internet shutdown as an intentional disruption, making internet communications inaccessible or effectively unusable for at least an hour. In many countries, authorities impose such shutdowns to suppress dissent, silence critics, and control the flow of information during elections. The global count had dipped in 2020 because of the pandemic but rose again in 2021.

J&K had most number of Internet Shutdowns
Source: Livemint

Jammu and Kashmir has borne most of the brunt of internet blackouts in India since such data became available. In 2021 as well, out of the 106 shutdowns, 85 were imposed in J&K. 

The government claims that most of these shutdowns were ordered for counter-terrorism measures, to quell unrest, and keep anti-national elements at bay. 

Impact of Internet Shutdowns

Source: Livemint

Economic Impact: According to ToplOVPN, a global digital privacy and research group, Internet Shutdowns cost India $583 million in 2021 alone.

Social Impact: The long internet shutdown in J&K overlapped with the first wave of Covid-19 affecting access to healthcare and education. Quarantined patients could reportedly not get in touch with families, contact tracing was hindered and doctors struggled to communicate. Online classes were difficult as bandwidth was curtailed.

Benefits of Internet Shutdowns

There is little evidence to prove that internet shutdowns help restore peace, stop misinformation, and curb terrorism. Studies have shown they often have the opposite effects. 

A working paper by Jan Rydzak 2019 has said that communication blackouts only strengthen violent unrest. Rumours and disinformation continue to spread with or without access to digital communication networks.

Source: The post is based on the articleThe cost of Internet shutdowns in India, in chartspublished in Livemint on 3rd May 2022.

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