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English
Talk
Everyone
Internet Shutdowns: why bother when you can just kill it?

Short thesis

The Internet has long been identified as one of the greatest technological advancements of recent times, and has proven over the years to be a critical enabler of social and economic change. As observed by the Outcome Document of the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the Overall Review of the Implementation of WSIS Outcomes, ICTs including the Internet have seen penetration into almost all corners of the globe, created new opportunities for social interaction, enabled new business models, and contributed to economic growth and development in all other sectors. It was further observed that increased ICT connectivity, innovation, and access have played a critical role in enabling progress on the Millennium Development Goals.

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. This is a blanket form of censorship being practiced by democracies and not just totalitarian regimes.

Description

The Internet has long been identified as one of the greatest technological advancements of recent times, and has proven over the years to be a critical enabler of social and economic change. As observed by the Outcome Document of the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the Overall Review of the Implementation of WSIS Outcomes, ICTs including the Internet have seen penetration into almost all corners of the globe, created new opportunities for social interaction, enabled new business models, and contributed to economic growth and development in all other sectors. It was further observed that increased ICT connectivity, innovation, and access have played a critical role in enabling progress on the Millennium Development Goals.

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. From 2013-2016, India has experienced 32 Internet shut downs for varying reasons across 10 states (http://sflc.in/internet-shutdown-tracker-india-2013-2016/). The reasons for suspension of Internet services 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; Iraq, in the Middle East, and even parts of South America, like Venezuela have experienced such this suspension of Internet services. Frequent resort to Internet shut downs by the State is tantamount to a tool for 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 would like to have a talk followed by discussion  to facilitate a better understanding of the causes and impacts for such shut downs, including the legal frameworks that permit such actions. This is a blanket form of censorship being practiced by democracies and not just totalitarian regimes.