Internet Blackouts a Growing Problem

John Lister's picture

Governments in 35 countries imposed complete blackouts of the Internet at some point in 2022 according to a new report. It's the highest figure in the seven years that "digital rights group" Access Now has been compiling data.

Perhaps surprisingly, China only had one Internet shutdown, while Russia had just two. That's slightly misleading as Russian forces imposed 22 shutdowns in parts of Ukraine during the ongoing war. (Source:

The country with the most blackouts (for the fifth straight year) was India, with 84. That's a hugely controversial topic as officials say the localized blackouts are necessary to stop cheating during exams for both schools and the civil service. Critics say the real reason is to block communication in areas of political opposition, particularly when protests are expected.

The sheer number of blackouts in India distorts overall figures but Access Now says the total number outside of India is the highest on record.

Length of Blackouts Also a Problem

Iran was the only other country with shutdowns in double figures. Again, it's widely believed the blackouts were designed to dampen political protests.

In some countries the low number of blackouts is also misleading. Parts of Myanmar have had a blackout in place since 2021, while one in the Tigray region of Ethiopia has been in place since 2020.

The report's authors say the blackouts have knock-on effects beyond the affected citizens. For example, humanitarian aid becomes harder to deliver without Internet communication and coordination. In some cases aid staff couldn't get details of humanitarian corridors where both sides of a military dispute agree not to fight so that aid can reach civilians safely.

Shutdowns a Targeted Weapon

According to the report, some governments are turning Internet shutdowns into a more targeted and sophisticated operation that block access for specific groups. That can limit wider damage such as harming the economy by limiting business.

The report also gives the example of Turkmenistan, which appears to be using shutdowns of the Internet to push people towards using a government controlled "national intranet" which would be much more restrictive. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Are you surprised by the figures? Should international organizations such as the UN have rules or policies to say countries should not intentionally block Internet access? Should your country support technologies and other efforts designed to help people bypass such blocks?

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Chief's picture

Keep it up and peer-to-peer networks will accelerate in their development.