Analyzing the Causes & Impacts of Internet Shutdowns

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Analyzing the Causes & Impacts of Internet Shutdowns
Presenter(s) Mishi Choudhary, Sarath M S
Title(s) Legal Director, Technologist
Organization(s) (Software Freedom Law Center, India)
Project(s) Internet Shutdowns in India
Country(ies) India
Social media @SFLCin, @MishiChoudhary, @sarath_ms
2017 theme Internet Freedom: Present and Future

The frequent resort to Internet shut downs by the State as a mitigation and prevention strategy, mostly in the developing countries is a cause of concern. Since 2012, India has experienced 62 Internet shutdowns for varying reasons across 12 states. The reasons for suspension of Internet services in India span an entire spectrum, ranging from disabling cheating in an exam to preventing a protest from happening during a cricket match. Apart from India, Internet shut downs have been reported in Bangladesh, Mynamar, in South Asian region; Egypt, Congo, Syria, Sudan, Burundi in the African continent; Turkey, Iraq in the Middle East, and even parts of South America, like Venezuela have experienced such suspension of Internet services. Frequent Internet shutdowns by the State is tantamount to curbing dissenting opinions, restricting organization of protests, disabling authentic reporting from the areas hit by unrest or violence, and obstructing the flow of information, thereby putting a halt to the inclusive nature of the Internet.

Against this backdrop, we are organizing this panel, which would take from global experiences to facilitate a better understanding of the causes and impacts for such shut downs, including the legal frameworks that permit such actions.

The discussion would move along the following broad issues:

1. What are the most common situations where States resort to suspension of Internet services? Is this used as a precautionary measure in times of anticipated unrest, or implemented post the occurrence of a certain type of situation?

2. What is the commonality, if there is any, in the laws of the countries that have experienced a multitude of Internet shut downs? Are the provisions used for such shut downs transparent in nature, drafted precisely, and provide for adequate safeguards and oversight mechanisms? Is the provision capable of ensuring accountability of the law enforcement agencies?

3. From the global experience, what have been the ground impacts on the situation for which the suspension of Internet services was imposed? Was such a shut down beneficial for controlling the situation, or did it serve the purpose of a smokescreen and restricted the accurate flow of information, and hence stifle freedom of expression?

We will also demonstrate, a visual tracker we built to aggregate data related to Internet Shutdowns in India and visualize them.

Format Conversation
Target Groups Advocacy and Policy Professionals, Front Line Activists, Technologists, Journalists
Length 1 hour
Skill Level Novice
Language English

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