The Internet is now a vital part of the everyday life of people across the globe. With the internet, it is not easier to carry out a protest and spread information virally. These are a few reasons why governments across the globe resort to shutting down the internet from time to time. Even though an internet shutdown might sound normal, its impact is not typical. It is because it impacts the lives of millions of people both directly and indirectly.
What Are Internet Shutdowns?
Internet shutdown is a measure usually taken by the government or by an organisation or agency working for the government to disrupt access to the internet intentionally. One of the significant reasons is to stop the spread of information in cyberspace and also, it is used to hamper the communication system too.
The internet shutdown basically cuts the accessibility to the internet of the entire region where the internet shutdown is carried out. The first major internet shutdown took place in Egypt back in 2011. The shutdown captured attention from across the world. However, after that, the internet shutdown has become quite a norm.
Sometimes, communication channels and networks are slowed down or completely blocked during the internet shutdown. Use Speed Test to check the internet speed of your region. According to a report, from 2016 to 2021, 931 internet shutdowns took place across 74 countries. Further, most of the internet shutdown took place in Asia and Africa.
Reasons Behind Internet Shutdowns
Most internet shutdowns were carried out, citing the reason for the political crisis and as a measure to prevent violent protests in the country. According to findings, it is usual to carry out internet shutdowns during election time to hamper election campaigning and public political discussions.
Such shutdowns profoundly impact the work of the media and journalists who play a key role during the election. Other reasons attributed to the internet shutdown include controlling the spread of hate speech, misinformation and illegal or harmful content. Irrespective of the reason behind internet shutdowns, the real question is how justified are the internet shutdowns?
The Impact Of Internet Shutdowns On Economy
During the internet shutdown, when communication channels and networks are either slowed down or completely blocked, the citizens have no access to stay in touch with their loved ones. If you are facing difficulty placing a video call even in the normal circumstance, consider Google Fiber to check the internet speed once. It further deprives them of continuing their online work or participating in an online discussion, which is essential in any democratic country.
Sometimes, the government also reduces the bandwidth and the internet speed to 2G. This makes it difficult for the users to share media files or enjoy a live broadcast. Therefore, it can be said that the internet shutdown is violating human rights. The government often resorts to internet shutdown during mass demonstrations and armed conflicts. According to the United Nations, this hampers the communication channel and, instead of reducing the violence and insecurity, further contributes to it.
According to a United Nations report, an internet shutdown is often carried out to combat the spread of misinformation and violation. However, reports have indicated that this actually oppositely impacts everything by creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion as it increases the conflict.
Increase In Digital Divide
Also, the internet shutdown’s impact on a country’s economy is massive. It disrupts commerce, industry and even basic financial transactions. This, in turn, increases the country’s economic and social inequalities and broadens the digital divide. Many developing nations are receiving aid to improve the digital connectivity within the country, but these countries are deepening the digital divide through internet shutdowns.
It Is A Violation Of Human Rights
Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that internet shutdowns cause a huge violation in human rights and material terms. Not only does the country’s economy suffer, but the people residing there suffer from it too. The cost often comes in the form of job loss, health loss and inability to participate in political discussion.
She further added there is an urgent need to end internet shutdowns and improve the transparency within the country. Even though self–imposed internet shutdowns create the illusion of protecting the citizen, it is, in fact, harming them. Now is the time to focus on increasing digital connectivity and not increasing the digital divide.