Report Details Government Internet Shutdowns

John Lister's picture

29 countries intentionally disrupted Internet access for their citizens at some point in 2020 according to a new report. Of a total 155 shutdowns, 28 were "full Internet blackouts."

While many were authoritative states, the most disruptions by far came in India, which is officially at least a democracy. It used more than 100 Internet shutdowns to prevent communication by protestors against a controversial law. Those shutdowns have now been judged illegal by the country's Supreme Court.

Mobile Speeds Slowed

The report, from Access Now, found the overall number of shutdowns around the world was down from 213 the previous year. However, the average length of a shutdown increased by 49 percent. (Soirce:

Not all such actions involved completely blocking access. In some cases, governments intentionally blocked some mobile data technologies so that only very slow connections - 2G in some cases - were available.

In other cases, the governments didn't cut off access but blocked both specific communications applications and the use of tools such as virtual private networks.

US Actions Noted

Sometimes such blocking had a very particular (claimed) purpose: Jordan's government blocked several communications tools during exam season to prevent cheating.

Government actions aren't the only threat to the Internet, however. The report cites several cases of civil wars and similar conflicts where one side intentionally attacked Internet infrastructure, such as severing cables.

The report also noted that although the United States has never used such powers, the President has the ability to shut down communications including the Internet. A law proposed last year would limit that power by requiring bipartisan backing in both houses of Congress for a shutdown order to remain legal. (Source:

Also cited in the report was former president Donald Trump's executive order barring US businesses from doing business with the Chinese operators of the TikTok and WeChat apps, a move that would have meant their removal from US app stores. A federal court issued a preliminary injunction stopping the order from taking effect.

What's Your Opinion?

Is blocking Internet access a breach of human rights? Would you approve of your government having the right to shut down access if it deemed it necessary? Are their situations where a shutdown is justified?

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matt_2058's picture

A breach of human rights? Internet access isn't a human right in my opinion and I think considering it so is a little far fetched. I do think the Government, any government, should be able to shut it down. Just like the Emergency Broadcast interruptions. But there's a problem when & if it's done without a valid justification. I can see that authority being abused more than legitimately used.

Justification should be war or invasion on a country's soil. A REAL war, not some rhetorical catch-phrase or the day.