The practice of shutting down the internet is often used in response to real or potential unrest in many countries. Shutdowns usually occur when the internet or mobile apps are deliberately disrupted, often by a government.
However, it has faced widespread criticism as it is a severe restriction on freedom of expression and an infringement on people’s daily lives, particularly when used to silence dissent.
Internet shutdowns and deliberate slowdowns have become increasingly prevalent worldwide once again. According to Access Now, India has recorded the highest number of shutdowns by far, with 84 in 2022 alone. In comparison, other countries with the next highest number of shutdowns recorded around 20 each.
In Ukraine, it was not the government but invading Russian forces who cut the internet 22 times in 2022 to disrupt communications.
India holds the unenviable distinction of being the country with the highest number of internet shutdowns. Shutdowns in India are concentrated in Kashmir but also occur in Rajasthan, where they have been employed during protests, both as a preemptive measure and during the actual protests.
In recent months, shutdowns have also been enforced during exams. Both regions have experienced violence stemming from tensions between Hindus and Muslims, with Kashmir also experiencing unrest in connection with the Muslim-led independence movement.
As the internet has become increasingly integral to daily life, limiting access to it can have significant financial repercussions.
In India, the frequent and lengthy shutdowns have proven to be a costly affair. According to a report by Top 10 VPN, the intentional downtime of approximately 1,500 hours in 2022 alone has cost the Indian economy $164 million, ranking it sixth in the world in terms of economic losses.
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