LIVING IN DIGITAL DARKNESS: Internet shutdown
LIVING IN DIGITAL DARKNESS: AN ARTICLE ON INTERNET SHUTDOWN
(by Rajeshwari Patidar)
With the recent advances in telecommunication technology and its increasing availability to the masses at low costs, the internet in the past few years has globally become a great supporter for people to exercise various fundamental rights, such as the right to free speech, right to associate, right to practice any profession, right to access information, and right to education.
“Freedom of expression is the casualty when internet shutdowns happen”- IFJ
What are Internet Shutdowns?
We define an Internet shutdown as “a Government-imposed disablement of access to the Internet as a whole within one or more localities for any duration of time”. There are two key components to this definition:
- Internet shutdown is always Government-imposed i.e. Internet Service Providers serving the locality in question are ordered by an agency of the Government to cut-off Internet services to that area.
- Internet shutdown always imposes a blanket ban on Internet access, where access to the Internet as a whole is disabled, and not a selective ban, where access to particular content/services is disabled leaving access to other content/services unaffected.
Why are they done?
Internet shutdowns have gradually become a popular component of the wider array of State responses like curfews, media clampdowns and others. It is firmly believed by state agencies that such a blanket shutdown would completely stop the spread of rumours and misinformation online, and by extension, any escalations in panic or violence that may otherwise have taken place. While selective bans on Internet access i.e. access to popular communication and social networking platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have also been imposed during law and order situations in the past. Blanket Internet shutdowns are heavily favoured by the State as selective bans are relatively easy to circumvent using workarounds like Virtual Private Networks and proxy servers.
Impact of Internet Shutdowns
- Technical Impact: – When a complete Internet shutdown occurs in a given country, the technical impact can affect the rest of the global Internet. Being part of an interconnected network means having a responsibility towards the network as a whole, and shutdowns hold the potential to generate systemic risks.
- Economic Impact: – Internet shutdowns affect economies in multiple ways, hindering productivity and generating monetary losses in time-sensitive transactions.
- Human Rights Impact: – People mostly depend on the Internet to stay in touch with family and friends, create local communities of interest, report public information and access and share knowledge. To that end, it can be argued that Internet access cannot be distinguished from the exercise of freedom of expression and opinion and the right to peaceful assembly.
Internet shutdowns under law
When it comes to understanding the existing legal mechanism for internet shutdowns in India, there are two statutes and a set of rules i.e. Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (CrPC), Indian Telegraph Act 1885, and Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 (hereinafter, the Telecom Suspension Rules), which confer powers upon Government agencies to order blanket network outages in districts and states of India.
- Section 144, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: – A vast majority of Internet shutdowns recorded in India between January 2012 and April 2018 have been ordered under Section 144 of the CrPC, 1973. From a bare reading, the core aspects of Section 144 that are relevant when discussing Internet shutdowns can be broken down as follows:
- The authority to issue orders under this Section lies with the District Magistrate, a sub- divisional Magistrate or any other Executive magistrate specially empowered by the State Government in this behalf.
- Before an order can be issued under Section 144, the issuing authority must be satisfied that there is sufficient ground for proceeding under this Section and that immediate prevention or speedy remedy is desirable.
- Any order issued under Section 144 must be in writing, stating the material facts of the case and served by applicable legal procedure.
- The order so issued and served can “direct any person to do or abstain from a certain act” or “to take certain order concerning the certain property in his possession or under his management”. In other words, the order can ask anyone to do or not do anything, or to perform a specific action as directed concerning any property they possess or manage.
- In the issuing authority’s view, the order must be “likely to prevent or tends to prevent, obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquillity, or a riot or an affray”.
Section 144 was a provision designed to help contain law and order situations by vesting State Government officials with emergency powers, and it has traditionally been used to issue curfews and dismiss unlawful assemblies during widespread civil unrest.
- Section 5(2) Indian Telegraph Act, 1855: – Though Section 144 of CrPC continues to be the provision most often used to invoke blanket bans on the Internet in India, Section 5(2) of Telegraph Act 1855 has also been invoked multiple times to order temporary Internet service disruptions. One of the first Internet shutdowns to be reported by mainstream media in 2012 was imposed under Section 5(2) of Telegraph Act and since then, there have been many more instances where Internet shutdowns were instituted under this provision.
As per Section 5(2), Central/State Governments or their authorized officers can, among other things, prevent the transmission of any telegraphic message or class of messages during a public emergency or in the interest of public safety, if it is considered necessary or expedient in the interest of
(1) Sovereignty and integrity of India; (2) Security of the State ;(3) Friendly relations with foreign states;(4) Public order; or (5) Preventing incitement to the commission of an offence.
The term “telegraph” can be interpreted broadly enough to cover Internet services within the ambit of the Telegraph Act and as a result, the Government’s power to prevent the transmission of telegraphs also applies to the Internet.
INDIA: The Capital of Internet Shutdowns
SFLC.in has been tracking incidents of Internet shutdowns across India in an attempt to draw attention to how the number and frequency of shutdowns, which are imposed for reasons ranging from curbing unrest to preventing cheating during examinations, have been rising at an alarming rate over the years. In 2018 alone, there were over 100 reported internet shutdowns in the country. In 2019, by June, there were already 59 internet shutdowns. This does not include the prolonged shutdown in J&K, following the scrapping of Article 370 or the shutdown in Assam and Meghalaya, following the protests against the implementation of CAB. But, it’s been since 2017 that there has been a staggering increase in the decline in internet freedom. In its point-rating scale, with 100 being the least free, India scores a 43.
THE LONGEST INTERNET SHUTDOWN IN INDIA lasted for about 213 days starting from 4th August 2019 to 4th March 2020 in Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir. Internet shutdown was imposed on 4th August 2019, when Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated by the Parliament of India. There was a Presidential order 272 dated 5th August 2019 which stated this. The State of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. There was a preventive shutdown imposed in the state which is yet to be lifted entirely. The shutdown in Kargil was lifted on 27th December 2019 but continues in other parts of the state. The beginning of the communication blockade saw landlines as well as Mobile services restricted, the ban on landlines was lifted but the suspension of mobile internet continues in the valley. On 25th January 2020, 2G services were restored in the valley for verified users. Only whitelisted websites could be accessed and social media remains prohibited. The services were snapped again the same day on account of security concerns for Republic Day, 2G services for whitelisted websites were later restored on 26th January 2020 at 4PM. On 4th March 2020, a new order was passed by the administration of J&K, whitelist was removed but the internet could only be accessed using 2G on verified SIM’s.
PRESENT SCENARIO OF SHUTDOWN:-COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Intentionally shutting down or restricting access to the internet violates multiple rights and can be deadly during a health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Human Rights Watch said today. Governments that are currently imposing an internet shutdown, such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, and Myanmar, should lift them immediately to save lives. During a health crisis, access to timely and accurate information is crucial.
People use the internet for updates on health measures, movement restrictions, and relevant news to protect themselves and others. “Internet shutdowns block people from getting essential information and services,” said Deborah Brown, senior digital rights researcher and advocate. “During this global health crisis, shutdowns directly harm people’s health and lives, and undermine efforts to bring the pandemic under control.”
For people around the world staying at home, either willingly or because of government restrictions, the internet is critical to communicate with doctors, family, and friends. For many children and others seeking an education, it is needed to continue learning as schools shutter around the world.
21 thoughts on “LIVING IN DIGITAL DARKNESS: Internet shutdown”
The article well explains the issue of internet shutdown and its impact over the society.
An Internet shutdown is something other than a detachment from Whatsapp, Facebook or Twitter; it implies constraining open doors for artists who exhibit their ability through YouTube or SoundCloud, business visionaries who have utilized the web that lets them intensify a thought without begging to be spent, or limiting roads for discovering that are given by stages like Coursera or edX. During an Internet shutdown, understudies can’t show up for different assessments; moderation organizations, writers and families can’t set up contact in emergency hit zones, and dispersal of advantages through different e-administration plans is obstructed.
It is very helpful article making understand of internert shutdown and it’s positive, negative and practical impact on the society.As we know that now a days people are using internet as their daily routine of work.My point of view about it internet shutdown is completely a foolish thing by the government.If is for 1 or 2 hour then it is fine.It is not about the social media like watsapp,facebook etc through internet MNC’s and many other companies whether it is governmental or not depending on it for their work to earn.By shutting down internet connection is totally a hindrence for the pace of development,making country to go into again in primitive era where it was not existing.
The last part also talked about the COVID – 19 pandemic and how important the internet is during such a health crisis in India. Internet shutdowns have gradually become a popular component of the wider array of State responses like curfews, media clampdowns, and others. People mostly depend on the Internet to stay in touch with family and friends, create local communities of interest, report public information, and access and share knowledge. Thanks for such an informative article.
Excellent article. This article very openly gives a wide description of internet shutdown in various cases .. along with its benefits and heavy loss.. as our lives are totally depended on internet, from shopping to cooking recipes to knowing about weather conditions, studying etc. Internet is in everyone’s mind, all the time.. and banning this for some reason will abruptly disturb many lives..many people are so depended on internet that they earn their livelihood from this.. banning internet is definitely a shock.. this article depicts the problems very well with a great example we have recently seen.. Banning internet in Kashmir, and even during lockdown, few of internet facilities are not available.
Today’s government is also depended on internet for providing various important information.
A nice example has taken, how will people be aware of the news and other facts , information about Covid-19 .
This article will actually make you think about internet shutdown..
A brilliant article that explores all the facets of internet shutdown. Its impact over civil liberties, economy and technology has been examined. The laws regulating such shutdown are also stated. Currently, various articles and legal pieces exist on various online platforms dealing with the same subject matter. However, this piece stands out with its informative and research quality. I second the opinions expressed by the author.
Article about internet shut down, quite opens our eyes to the fact that how everyone is extremely much dependent on it. Imagining about not having access to the internet is a nightmare for everyone in these times. From entertainment to enlightenment on anything is available on the internet. The pros and cons of internet shutdown are apparently mentioned in the article. It also gave information Relating to the present COVID 19 crisis. As the internet and technology played a vital role in the development of the country in many ways. Thinking about not having internet takes us back to a time that we can’t imagine.
Internet these days is like our blood and soul. We have become so dependent on it, that it’s quite hard to imagine how to carry on life without it. In such a scenario, internet shutdowns are absolutely barbaric and against human rights. More so, if one tries to look at the reason for such a measure taken by the government, it appears to be silencing dissent, more than security concerns, as in the case of Article 370. So, the real question is: are the shutdowns justified at all? The author does a pretty good job of highlighting the inherent problems with such shutdowns, the provisions that can be used to impose them, and the instances where they have been imposed before.
very knowledgeable article about the cyber crime and their precautions, also gives the guidelines to protect from cyber crimes.
Internet shutdown has become a tool for governments to use in a time of crisis. This article clearly explains how and why it is done and how it can harm or save a community. It can prove to be beneficial at a time when hatred is spread to cause violence but can be harmful during a pandemic like COVID-19.
A very well written and well researched article. This article is very informative and provides knowledge about internet shutdown and provides information upto till date,
Article tells us about internet shutdown and it help when hatred is spreading continuously .This article explains how and why it is done and how it can harm or save a community.
Amazing article. Internet shutdown has been explained very well by the article taking in real incidents in consideration. The introduction was good so was the subject matter and the conclusion was also well written. Indeed internet shutdown is like taking the freedom of speech of the citizens. In total, a well-written article by the writer.
The article well explains the issue of internet shutdown and its impact over the society.An Internet shutdown is an intentional disruption of Internet-based communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unavailable, for a specific population, location, or mode of access, often to exert control over the flow of information.
Wow ,amazing article!
The pros and cons of internet shutdown are apparently mentioned in the article. It also gave information Relating to the present COVID 19 crisis.
Internet shutdowns have far-reaching technical, economic, and human rights impacts. They undermine users’ trust in the Internet, setting in motion a whole range of consequences for the local economy, the reliability of critical online government services, and even for the reputation of the country itself.
Great work done by the author and much needed topic to be addressed.
Understood internet shutdown and it’s positive, negative and practical impact on the society.As we know that now a days people are using internet as their daily routine of work.
An Internet shutdown is an intentional disruption of Internet-based communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unavailable, for a specific population, location, or mode of access, often to exert control over the flow of information.
I really loved the choice of topic made by the author and i think we as aware individuals should talk and write more about this blanket ban on internet services in a particular region because what generally happens is that most of the people think that this ban is justified in the name of so called patriotism and they blind themselves in it and refuse to even consider the consequences of it and how badly it is affecting people’s right to access some basic necessity yes i feel internet is surely a necessity these days because everything’s on it no matter what and it is surely needed by a literate individual for sure.
Constructive article describes the issue of internet shutdown and problems faced by the people..I really liked it.
This is a blazing article , glad to read this.
Internet shutdown virtually becomes our need sometimes as of now due to COVID-19 Indian government put internet shutdown in some parts of India and it block people from getting essential information which is a major pitfall.
The article gave an actual realisation to a complete darkness without Internet.Now here is a truism. If you have never had something of course you will never loose it or be without it in the first place.This was me some 7 years ago living in a small rural village attending a government high school. I had zero practical knowledge of what the internet was and what I could possibly do with it.
It becomes difficult for us to even imagine some hours without internet, and for the people in these places like J&K, it has become a way of life. Often internet shutdowns are looked upon as an infringement of freedom of speech and expression but it is argued that it is under reasonable restrictions as the government is afraid that this may result in incitement of war and is a threat to security of state. Although it is true that social media is a tool for rumours and we have seen instances where it incites offences yet Internet is a basic facility upon which various daily chores are dependent.
Very well-written and concise article. The author has highlighted all the important points. A better conclusion is recommended.