India imposed the highest number of internet shutdowns of any nation in 2022, according to a Tuesday report by digital watchdog Access Now. The report found that India cut internet access 84 times out 187 international shutdowns last year and has accounted for 58 percent of all shutdowns documented by Access Now since 2016.
The report identified India as a high-risk country for digital censorship, with Indian authorities blocking over 55,000 websites, URLs, applications, social media posts and accounts since 2015. Indian authorities cut internet access 49 times in Jammu and Kashmir in response to political instability and violence. Of those, 16 consecutive orders for “curfew-style shutdowns” were imposed in January and February 2022.
The report observed a global increase shutdown orders compared to previous years, with 35 nations imposing shutdown orders in 2022. Ukraine experienced 22 internet shutdowns, most due to Russia’s deliberate attacks on infrastructure. Iran issued 18 shutdown orders, Myanmar issued 7 and Bangladesh issued 6. Shutdown orders were imposed most frequently due to protest activity, active conflicts, examinations and elections. The recorded shutdown orders in 14 countries coincided with documented human rights abuses, and 33 of the countries imposing shutdown orders were “repeat offenders.”
Access Now identified an emerging pattern of censorship and internet restriction, saying:
As people around the world grapple with economic insecurity, humanitarian crises, and repression by authoritarian states, internet shutdowns are unwelcome intrusions, demonstrably harmful, and clear violations of human rights. Global attention on shutdowns is reaching a critical juncture, and civil society is meeting the challenge by shining a light on the darkness of internet shutdowns.
The organization annually reports on instances of internet shutdowns and censorship under the #KeepItOn campaign, which is comprised of over 300 organisations across 105 countries.