Experts & Views
[Press Release]: ‘Internetshutdowns.in’ launched by SFLC.in as a one stop destination for resources on Internet shutdowns in India
‘Internetshutdowns.in’ launched by SFLC.in as a one stop destination for resources on Internet shutdowns in India
New Delhi, February 8: Delhi-based not-for-profit legal services organization SFLC.in today launched ‘internetshutdowns.in’, a new portal to provide policy makers, academics, media-persons and the public at large with a repository of instances where blanket bans on Internet services, either mobile or fixed line, were imposed in India. Till date, their data reflects 62 incidents of Internet shutdowns across various regions in 12 states in the country, with 30 being reported in 2016 itself, and 4 instances in the first month of 2017.
‘Internetshutdowns.in’ also hosts a continually-updated Internet Shutdown Tracker for India. This tracker offers detailed records of all Internet shutdowns reported from 2013 and presents this data on an interactive map. It also contains resources such as an analysis of the legality of such incidents in the country, along with a study of these shutdown trends in India based on the medium that was restricted, duration of shutdown, as well as the nature of the measure, i.e. if it was a preventive or reactive action. It revealed that the number of shutdowns increased more than two fold from 14 in 2015 to 30 in 2016.
Mishi Choudhary, President and Legal Director at SFLC.in said, “There is a global consensus that access to Internet is a human right, in a digital and connected world. Yet, many countries block Internet services as responses to conflict situations, or even for trivial reasons such as to prevent cheating during examinations. Unfortunately, these shutdowns not only imperil civil liberties, but also grievously hurt the economy, as a recent report by the US policy think-tank Brookings Institution showed. The shutdowns in 2015-16 cost Indian businesses an estimated amount of $968 million (Rs 6,485 crore). As the pace of shutdowns increases, the costs will mount, particularly given the new emphasis on transactions by Internet payment systems linked to Aadhaar. Shutdowns are a very imprecise means of achieving any social end, imposing immense collateral damage. In democracies, essential social facilities should not be turned off by the State, which acts in the peoples’ interests. The dependence on mobile Internet services for public safety and order, education, business, and family life is a fact of our existence. It should not be intentionally broken by government, pursuing one form of ‘law and order’ at the expense of all other social functioning.”
“Internet shutdowns are a global, not merely an Indian problem,” said Ms Choudhary. “SFLC.in has been working with Access Now on its global campaign to study and reverse the adoption of shutdown policies around the world. We acknowledge their assistance and leadership in this area.”
This resource portal also provides users with the option to report an Internet shutdown in their vicinity to keep the shutdown tracker up to date with disruptions SFLC.in has recently written to the Additional Secretary of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Dr. Ajay Kumar requesting him to take requisite action to ensure that stable and reliable Internet services are assured to citizens, especially at a time when the Digital India programme is encouraging e-governance initiatives and the Government is advocating for transactions through cashless modes.
Per SFLC.in’s record, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has experienced highest number of shutdowns (27 since 2012). Out of the total 62 shutdowns recorded since 2012, 44 were targeted at mobile Internet services, 8 targeted both, fixed-line and mobile Internet services, while no conclusive information was available for 10 incidents and no shutdowns targeting fixed-line services alone were recorded during their period of study.