Between January 2012 and June 2022, there were 647 government-imposed internet shutdowns across India, resulting in the highest number of internet blocks in the world so far. According to the Freedom House Index ratings of 2019, India was labelled a partially free democracy and scored a mediocre 55 points out of 100 on the freedom of internet parameters.
Cost of shutdowns
In 2019, India’s forced internet blackouts lasted well over four thousand hours, resulting in an economic loss of over 1.3 billion U.S. dollars, third in the world’s most economically affected countries, after Iraq and Sudan. The report added that India’s internet blackouts tend to be highly targeted and at times they are down to the level of individual blacklisting. Some internet shutdowns are imposed for a few hours in just a few city districts, while others are a blanket restriction of all internet services across larger regions in the country. As such, the report warns that the full economic impact is likely to be much higher than the stated figures.
Justifications for internet shutdowns
In 2016, the United Nations declared internet access as a basic human right. Despite this, many governments including India seem to be normalizing internet shutdowns. Public safety was the most common government justification to enable internet shutdowns in 2018, followed by national security. Fake news or hate speech, usually called disinformation, was ranked third. However, official justifications for shutdowns rarely seemed to match actual causes, which frequently included political instability and civilian protests.
Number of government-imposed internet shutdowns in India from 2012 to 2022
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SFLC.in. (June 9, 2022). Number of government-imposed internet shutdowns in India from 2012 to 2022 [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved August 20, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1095035/india-number-of-internet-shutdowns/
SFLC.in. "Number of government-imposed internet shutdowns in India from 2012 to 2022." Chart. June 9, 2022. Statista. Accessed August 20, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1095035/india-number-of-internet-shutdowns/
SFLC.in. (2022). Number of government-imposed internet shutdowns in India from 2012 to 2022. Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: August 20, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1095035/india-number-of-internet-shutdowns/
SFLC.in. "Number of Government-imposed Internet Shutdowns in India from 2012 to 2022." Statista, Statista Inc., 9 Jun 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1095035/india-number-of-internet-shutdowns/
SFLC.in, Number of government-imposed internet shutdowns in India from 2012 to 2022 Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1095035/india-number-of-internet-shutdowns/ (last visited August 20, 2022)