Of Internet freedom in India, Myanmar and Nigeria ─Report

*Only Myanmar ($2.8billion) and Nigeria ($1.5billion) did more economic damage with self-inflicted wounds in their economies

Web Editor | ConsumerConnect

The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), February 11, 2022, had submitted a report on Internet shutdowns in India to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In it, IFF highlighted that Internet shutdowns are extremely common in India, citing reports by Top10VPN and Access Now, and data from the Software Freedom Law Center and Meta.

Mobile Internet consumers

According to the TopVPN report, the Indian Government imposed major internet restrictions on citizens for 1,157 hours in 2021, the equivalent of more than 48 days.

This included 317.5 hours of total internet blackout and 840 hours of bandwidth throttling.

In all, Internet restrictions cost the India economy $582.8 million (Rs 4,348 crore) in 2021.

Only Myanmar ($2.8 billion) and Nigeria ($1.5 billion) did more economic damage with these self-inflicted wounds.

This dismal performance was actually an improvement for India from 2020, when it lost an estimated $2.8 billion – more than any other country by far – after shutting down the internet for a combined 8,927 hours.

Overall, government internet outages in 21 countries lasting over 30,000 hours cost the global economy $5.45 billion in 2021, a 36% increase from 2020, when $4.01 billion was lost, the report said.

India’s internet restrictions in 2021

The Indian government imposed more costly internet outages than almost any other nation, according to the report by TopVPN. It also said:

Some of the outages constituted election interference, while others violated people’s right to peaceful assembly and freedom of the press.

The biggest economic hit came from throttling internet speeds in Kashmir, where authorities finally restored normal Internet access in February, after 18 months.

The intentional slowdown to 2G speeds rendered the internet in Kashmir nearly useless, causing education and business to suffer during the pandemic.

In late January, the government imposed a costly localised internet blackout in Delhi in response to the farmers’ protest.

Reports that police fired teargas and savagely beat protesters circulated despite the internet outage.

Other internet blackouts revolved around controlling the flow of information online in Kashmir after the death of a prominent separatist leader. Rajasthan’s internet was shut down in September to prevent exam cheating.

What the law says: In its submission to the United Nations, IFF said the government continued to impose frequent shutdowns “despite the fact that the law permits suspension of internet services only in exceptional circumstances”.

It noted that the government uses Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act and the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 to impose shutdowns.

Both these pieces of legislation, IFF said, were extensively considered by the Supreme Court in Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India, (2020).

“In Anuradha Bhasin, in the context of a year-long communication shutdown in Jammu & Kashmir, the Supreme Court had held that internet shutdowns are a ‘drastic measure’ which may be imposed only if it is lawful, necessary and proportionate, and only after publishing internet suspension orders,” it said. (ETTech)

Kindly Share This Story