Internet Shutdowns in India and Globally

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    In Context

    • Recently, Digital rights advocacy group Access Now has released a report on global incidences of internet shutdowns in the year 2022.
      • As per the record, nearly 187 internet shutdowns occurred in 2022 of which nearly half of those blackouts happened in India.
      • The government of a country regularly imposes communications restrictions on security grounds.

    Major Findings of the Report

    Indicators

    Findings

    Report on India

    • India imposed the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world in 2022.
    • India has topped the list for the fifth successive year.
    • Out of 187 internet shutdowns globally recorded by Access Now, 84 took place in India, including 49 in Kashmir.

    Reasons for Shutdowns in India

    • Authorities disrupted internet access in Kashmir due to political instability and violence.
    • Militants have battled India’s rule in Kashmir for more than three decades.

    Shutdowns in Other Countries

    • Ukraine was second on the list, with the Russian military cutting access to the internet at least 22 times after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
    • The Russian military intentionally destroyed telecommunications equipment and cut off Internet connectivity during its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
    • Iran came in third place with 18 internet shutdowns imposed in 2022 in response to demonstrations against the government.

    Major reasons for internet shut-downs

    • Internet shutdowns in India are often imposed by the government as an administrative or law-and-order measure.
    • It is done to curb the spread of misinformation and rumors that can lead to deteriorating law and order situations. 
    • Shutting down the internet helps maintain peace among communities in times of crisis. 

    Laws governing Shutdowns in India

    • Section 69A of the Information Technology Act 2000 (IT Act)  gives the Indian government the power to issue directions to block public access to any information through any computer resource in cases including: 
      • Interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to the above.
    • The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 grants the central government the power to disconnect or intercept communication services in the interest of case including: 
      • Public safety, sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order.
    • Temporary suspensions can also be ordered under “Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017”.

    Impact of Internet Shutdowns

    • Economic impact: Internet shutdowns have a significant economic impact, as they affect a wide range of sectors including e-commerce, online education, and businesses that rely on the internet for their operations.
    • Disruption of public services: Shutdowns disrupt access to essential public services such as healthcare, emergency services, and communication.
    • Social impact: Shutdowns impact the ability of citizens to communicate with their loved ones, access information, and exercise their right to free speech. It is also against democratic rights as it curtails freedom of speech and expression which are constitutionally protected under Article 19.
    • Political impact: Shutdowns are often used to control the flow of information during political unrest, protests, or elections leading to a lack of transparency and accountability in the democratic process.
    • Psychological impact: Internet shutdowns can cause stress, anxiety, and mental health issues, especially for those who rely on the internet for their livelihood or to stay connected with family and friends.
    • International reputation: Frequent and prolonged internet shutdowns have a negative impact on India’s international reputation as a democratic and technologically advanced nation.
    • Legal implications: Shutdowns can also have legal implications, as they may violate the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and international human rights laws.

    Source: LM