Centre for Internet & Society

An internet shutdown is an intentional disruption of internet or electronic communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable, for a specific population or within a location, often to exert control over the flow of information.


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There is no consolidated research on internet shutdowns worldwide and government policies relating to this phenomenon. Access, however, has been tracking instances of internet shutdowns here. According to this tracker, there were 56 internet shutdowns worldwide in 2016.

In this report, we have identified countries where shutdowns took place more than once in the past one year. We were able to identify these countries from the tracker that is being operated by Access. We have looked at the internet shutdown practices and government policies on shutdowns in these countries. The countries include Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey and Uganda.

We have greatly relied on media coverage of internet shutdowns in the aforementioned countries and reports by various organisations including Freedom House, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Article 19, Access, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Brookings Institution, Annenberg School of Communication, OSCE, Centre for Communication Governance, OONI and Dyn documenting and/or analysing internet censorship in these countries.

While documenting internet shutdown practices in the countries identified above, we have looked at the   geographical coverage of a shutdown i.e. whether it was carried out nationwide or in specific regions and type of internet services that were restricted i.e. whether access was restricted to the whole internet, mobile internet services or specific messaging services and/or applications. In this regard, we have referred to a report published by the Brookings Institution, Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion last year that has analysed the economic impact of internet shutdowns. In this report, the author has identified six categories of disruptions: national internet, subnational internet, national mobile internet, subnational mobile internet, national app/service, and subnational app/ service. I have used this classification to understand and document internet shutdown practices in the aforementioned countries.

This report was featured on the website of the Keep Us Online campaign led by the Internet Freedom Foundation.


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