Over the past decade, intentional internet disconnections by governments in multiple countries have taken off statistically. The main motivations for this form of repression are to contain movements and protests by limiting access to the network and making it difficult for political and civil groups to communicate and organize. A new survey indicates that around 850 internet outages have been recorded in the last 10 years.
2019 and 2020 lead in internet disconnections
This is an “alarming” number, according to the Shutdown Tracker Optimization Project, or simply “STOP”, by the non-profit organization Access Now. The group also recognizes that data prior to 2016 is “irregular”, therefore the vast majority of internet disconnections registered in the world were concentrated in the last five years, more precisely 768.
2019 was the champion year, with 213 network outages, followed by 2020, with 155 intentional disconnections, a number that becomes even more alarming given the enormous growth in internet use worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first five months of 2021, the organization counted 50 stoppages in 21 different countries.
“Since we started monitoring government-initiated Internet outages, the method has proliferated at a truly alarming rate,” said Felicia Anthonio, activist and leader of Access Now’s #KeepItOn movement, in a new report on the issue called “The Current”, published on the Google Jigsaw platform.
“As governments around the world learn this authoritarian tactic from each other, it has evolved from an obscure method to become a common strategy that many authorities use to stifle opposition, suppress free speech and silence opinions.”
Method is authoritarian and against freedom of expression
According to the survey, the first significant internet shutdown occurred in Egypt in 2011, in response to protests against then-President Hosni Mubarak. As a result, around 93% of Egyptian networks were blocked for five days. Previous internet shutdowns and disconnections have also occurred in Guinea in 2007 and Iran in 2009, but Egypt was the first to affect connections at the national level, where more than a quarter of citizens were connected.
From there, internet disconnections spread all over the world, mainly in Asia and Africa. The study also indicates that this method is most commonly applied during elections or at protest times, with governments claiming that the stoppages are necessary to stem the spread of disinformation.
However, the report points out that the real intention of the rulers is to “prevent opposition candidates from connecting with voters to gain support, restrict citizens’ ability to organize and undermine the efforts of election monitors who seek to ensure the integrity of the process. .”
This type of authoritarian measure is not only a blow to freedom of expression and national communication, it also causes serious economic damage. Myanmar, for example, has seen the longest Internet shutdown in history caused by the government as part of the recent coup.
It is estimated that the economic loss has already reached 2.5% of the country’s GDP, around US$ 2.1 billion. According to the study, this “inflicted on the country approximately half of the damage caused by the great recession of 2007 on the US economy in less than a third of the time.”
Technology offers countermeasures
The closure of the Internet has been condemned by several international organizations, including the G7 and the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights and Special Rapporteurs, but as Access Now data show, this does not appear to have stopped governments from taking this authoritarian measure. .
The problem is not simple to solve, but the best method to combat internet shutdown seems to be purely technological. VPNs and proxy servers allow users to route Internet traffic through another country to avoid certain blockages, while mesh networking applications can connect directly from one device to another, providing some basic functionality such as messaging.
with informations: The Verge