Report Reveals Alarming Surge in Global Internet Shutdowns in 2023

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Mr. Brett Solomon, Executive Director, Access Now

A report by Access Now for the #KeepItOn coalition, has revealed that 2023 was the worst year for global internet shutdowns, highlighting what it describes as an alarming and dangerous trend for human rights.

The report titled “Shrinking Democracy, Growing Violence: Internet Shutdowns in 2023,” reveals that governments around the world continue to shut down the internet and critical digital communication platforms to suppress expression, block access to life-saving information, and cover up heinous crimes against humanity.

The report documents 283 shutdowns in 39 countries. These results are staggering, marking the highest number of shutdown incidents in a single year since the monitoring began in 2016. This reflects an additional 82 shutdowns, which is a 41% increase from 2022 when 201 shutdowns were recorded in 40 countries. It’s also a 28% increase from 2019, which was the previous record high with 221 shutdowns. These figures include the new data added in 2023 to document existing platform blocks and other internet shutdowns beginning in prior years, as noted in its recent update on the #KeepItOn Shutdown Optimization Project (STOP).

The report finds that for the first time since 2016, conflicts have emerged as the primary cause of internet shutdowns, and that shutdowns occurring during natural disasters have become a concerning new trend. Despite increasing opposition to the use of internet shutdowns and efforts by some key offenders to change their approach, it notes that disruptions continue to be the preferred tool for both democratic and authoritarian regimes to suppress fundamental human rights.

The use of internet shutdowns to shield attackers’ actions, the report noted, has resulted in tens of thousands of lives lost from Palestine to Myanmar, and Sudan to Ukraine. The report serves as an urgent call to action for all stakeholders. It includes recommendations for governments, companies, and international actors to address the use of internet shutdowns during crises and conflicts, reject the dangerous normalization of these disruptions, and uphold human rights.

The full report is available at  https://www.accessnow.org/internet-shutdowns-2023/.