A recent report by digital rights nonprofit Access Now and research unit Jigsaw is bringing attention to the dangers of internet shutdowns by state actors. Shutdowns can include full blackouts that remove access to the entire internet in a given region or partial shutdowns that cut off certain social media or messaging apps. The report found that there were 155 documented shutdowns in 2020, and 50 more in the first five months of 2021.
These shutdowns can have many negative effects across the world. Shutdowns impinge people’s ability to communicate and get information, especially during times of conflict or emergencies. Additionally, limiting access to the internet can have devastating effects on local economies, with researchers estimating that ongoing disruptions in Myanmar have cost the country $2.5 billion this year. With internet access being a critical tool for education, health care, employment, and community building, shutdowns can have dire impacts for vast swaths of people.
The report recommends those at risk for disruptions should download virtual private networks and plan alternative communication methods, and Access Now is advocating for laws protecting internet networks from government interference. Learn more about shutdowns and read the full report here.