Internet has become essential not only to communication, but also to finance management, education and employment. The frequent shutdowns of the last decade not only disturb people’s daily lives, but they prevent them of having access to critical information too. It has been noticed that the number of government-led internet shutdowns has exploded the past few years. In an effort to control protests, opposition and criticism, governments around the world restrict or shut down internet access.
The shutdown incidents are most prominent in certain continents. Although governments are claiming that internet shutdowns are necessary to reduce the spread of misinformation, it has been obvious that are mostly carried out during elections, or on times when people are feeling upset.
Speaking to The Verge, Marianne Díaz Hernández, a Venezuelan lawyer and #KeepItOn Fellow, says the rise in shutdowns is a response to the internet’s increasing utility for organizing protest. “As more and more people use the internet, and particularly social media, to document and criticize human rights violations, civil instability and other events, some governments start seeing the internet as a threat that needs to be controlled, she says.
It’s worth mentioning that the way it is done is not always obvious as shutdowns can take a variety of forms. An internet shutdown, can sometimes mean restriction of access to large platforms where people share information. On other occasions, countries may block particular IP addresses/domain names or get telecom providers to block internet access entirely. More than this, they sometimes reduce the connection speed to a ridiculously low level, which can be falsely attributed to technical problems.
The good news is that partial restrictions can often be avoided through Virtual Private Networks (VPN) or proxy servers.