Internet shutdown problem, the measures to deal with them.

What is the problem of internet shutdown, what can be the measures to deal with them?

In January 2020, the Supreme Court of India held that access to information through the Internet is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution.

Hearing in the Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India case, the apex court also ruled that any restriction on internet usage by the government should be temporary, limited in its scope, valid, necessary, and proportionate.

The hope was that the decision would limit Internet suspension incidents only to exceptional situations where there is a state of public emergency or a threat to public safety. These are legislatively mandated prerequisites for restricting Internet access.

But unfortunately, these hopes were not fulfilled. In fact, the very next year (in 2021) after the decision saw more instances of Internet shutdowns than the previous year.

India’s internet shutdowns contributed to over 70% of the total damage to the global economy in the year 2020 and India has become infamous as the ‘Internet shutdown capital of the world’.

Some Examples of Recent Internet Shutdowns

The government of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has restricted access to mobile data in the Kashmir Valley.

These restrictions were imposed in the wake of the death of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Internet was shut down in Delhi and Haryana to control the resistance of the farmers. Haryana’s orders in this regard were issued on social media but not uploaded on government websites.

Justification of internet shutdown

Control of Fake News: Internet shutdown measures are generally used when there is a state of civil unrest, to block the flow of information about government actions or to block communication between activists/agitators and spread rumors.

And to stop the spread of fake news. It is also a tool to verify rumors and enables individuals and the government to spread the truth or real situation.

Preventive response: Internet shutdown is also a preliminary and preventive response adopted by disturbed/angry groups to prevent the organization of violent demonstrations against the government.

National interest: The Internet cannot be considered independent of national sovereignty. Therefore, the necessary regulation of the Internet is also a suitable option for sovereign countries based on national interests.

Effects of internet shutdown

Building trust deficit: The Internet is a vital necessity in the present times and restricting it without publicly disclosed reasons creates a trust deficit.

The trust deficit has also arisen because the central government has not done enough to give statutory recognition to the court’s directions in the Anuradha Bhasin case.

In the year 2020, the government amended the Telecom Temporary Suspension of Service (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 to limit internet suspension orders to a maximum of 15 days.

But this amendment did not impose any obligation on the government to publish the orders, nor did it give any place to the Supreme Court’s direction to review these orders from time to time.

Economic impact: In the year 2020, 129 separate instances of internet suspension caused a loss of US$2.8 billion to the Indian economy, affecting 10.3 million people.

Internet is a platform for information, entertainment, health care, education, livelihood as well as a platform for members of Indian society to communicate with each other and with the world.

Against Human Development: The economic, psychological, social, and journalistic losses caused by such suspension outweigh any imaginary gains.

A ban on the Internet may be appropriate in times of emergency, but it should not be used to hinder the democratic exercise of the right to resistance.

In fact, the internet is an essential tool to help each other in such turbulent times.

Impact on lower socio-economic classes: Internet restrictions are often justified on the grounds that they are limited to control mobile data services.

But even such an approach does not serve the purpose. Mobile device users (dongles and phones) account for 97.02% of total internet users, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) 2019 report on Telecom Service Performance Indicators of India. Only 3% of users have access to broadband internet.

This figure is unlikely to change significantly in these two years, as broadband internet is still expensive.

This leads to the conclusion that internet restrictions also adversely affect people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Way farword

Rejecting all non-shutdown options: Governments should identify best practices for addressing problems at their source and prioritize alternative Internet shutdown measures.

Sharing experiences within and outside regions can lead to solutions that will not rely on a single measure of restrictions on Internet access.

Cost-benefit analysis: Governments should conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the cost-effectiveness of Internet shutdowns before taking any such action.

Network disruptions reduce productivity, adversely affect business confidence, and can be detrimental to both short-term and long-term financial investments.

Diversification of expressions: Venture capitalists and investors should also include Internet shutdowns as a part of their risk assessment.

The importance of small and medium enterprises (including those outside the information and communication technology sector) to the future of the local economy should be characterized even more broadly from the perspective of how Internet shutdowns completely undermine their implementation capacity.

Situation Monitoring: Civil society organizations should continue to monitor the impact of Internet shutdowns along with other stakeholders and play a key role in ensuring government accountability and transparency regarding Internet shutdowns.

Conclusion

Parliament has allowed these restrictions only in the event of a public emergency or a threat to public safety.

But it is disappointing that controlling the Internet has become a very common government move, while it is also being challenged by the lack of transparency. would not have been possible.

Thus, getting rid of the tag of being the “Internet Shutdown Capital of the World” and fulfilling the potential of Digital India, there is a need for more prompt compliance of Supreme Court guidelines on the part of the functioning government.

The problem of internet shutdown, what can be the measures to deal with them.
internet shutdown in India

FAQ

Question: Which Country Has Highest Internet shutdown?

Answer: India reported the highest number of recorded Internet shutdowns last year, at 109 out of a total of 155 globally. This is the third consecutive year India has topped the global charts on this score, a new report by digital rights and privacy organization Access Now has found.

Question: Can the whole Internet be shut down?

Answer: Disabling the entire internet would be like trying to stop the flow of every river in the world at once. No. There isn’t a single connection point that all the data flows through, and the internet protocol was specifically designed so that data finds a route around parts of the network that are down.

Question: Who runs and controls the Internet?

Answer: The ICANN, a nonprofit organization composed of stakeholders from government organizations, members of private companies, and internet users from all over the world, now has direct control over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the body that manages the web’s domain name system (DNS).

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