India Is the World Leader in Internet Shutdowns: Global Report

Narendra Modi (file photo). Courtesy: PIB
Narendra Modi (file photo). Courtesy: PIB

The report says that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating a dramatic decline in global internet freedom.

A new global report reveals that India remains the world leader in internet shutdowns. Last year, for the first time, the government disrupted connectivity in major cities, a milestone occasioned by demonstrations against a discriminatory law that gave certain non-Muslim groups special access to citizenship.

Freedom on the Net 2020: The Pandemic’s Digital Shadowreport released by democracy-protection organization Freedom House says that the Indian authorities increasingly pressured social media companies such as Twitter and streaming platforms like Netflix to remove content that was critical of the government’s Hindu nationalist agenda.

The restrictions were also imposed on content that criticized the government actions in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), India’s only Muslim-majority state until it was stripped of its semi-autonomous status and divided into two “union territories” in 2019.

In addition, according to the report, new evidence pointed to the use of spyware against prominent activists, journalists, and lawyers involved in advocating for the rights of marginalized groups.

The report finds that the global internet freedom has declined for the 10th consecutive year. The largest declines occurred in Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan, followed by India, Ecuador, and Nigeria. A record number of countries featured deliberate disruptions to internet service.

The report further says that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating a dramatic decline in global internet freedom. For the 10th consecutive year, users have experienced an overall deterioration in their rights, and the phenomenon is contributing to a broader crisis for democracy worldwide.

The autocratic authorities are increasingly citing Covid-19 to justify expanded surveillance powers and the deployment of new technologies that were once seen as too intrusive.

In another report, “Democracy under Lockdown – The Impact of Covid-19 on Global Freedom,” Freedom House has stated that the Covid-19 pandemic has deepened a crisis for democracy around the world.

The pandemic is providing cover for governments to disrupt elections, silence critics and the press, and undermine the accountability needed to protect human rights as well as public health.

Freedom House is an American organization devoted to the support and defense of democracy around the world.

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Rakesh Raman