India accounted for 85% of internet shutdowns in the first six months of 2022 out of the ten countries where Internet disruptions and restrictions were recorded, said Surfshark and internet watchdog NetBlocks in a new joint report published on Thursday. Asia was the most censored continent, the report added.
In India, maximum cases of shutdowns were reported in Jammu and Kashmir. However, shutdowns were also rampant in other parts of the country. For instance, on June 17, 2022, a significant disruption of fixed-line and mobile internet connectivity was reported across Bihar, according to Netblocks. The incidents occurred due to government-imposed restrictions on telecommunications in the state to counter protests over Agnipath recruitment scheme, NetBlocks added.
The report further shows that out of the ten countries where Internet shutdowns were recorded, internet restriction cases decreased by 14% in the first half of this year — from 84 in H1 2021 to 72, an official statement said.
Out of these 72 internet disruptions, social media platforms were targeted six times — twice in Europe and Africa, and once in Asia and South America. Despite a decrease in cases, new internet disruptions affected more citizens, including a total of 1.89 billion people compared to 1.54 billion during the same period last year.
“The number of countries that use internet disruptions as a weapon to silence citizens’ unrest remains worryingly high,” said Agneska Sablovskaja, Lead Researcher at Surfshark. She said, most cases are of national or local magnitude where the internet is slowed or completely shut down, leaving its people without most of their communication means.
According to Surfshark, in the first half of 2022, the most commonly restricted social media app was Facebook. 46% of the global population has been affected by government-imposed Facebook restrictions. Twitter and WhatsApp follow the app, the latter being the most censored voice-over IP (VoIP) app. Governments also targeted Instagram, Telegram, and YouTube.
Another report by tech policy think tank Access Now published in April 2022, also recorded the highest number of Internet shutdowns in India for the fourth consecutive year. The reasons range from curbing protests to preventing online frauds.
“In 2021 itself, India blacked out the Internet at least 106 times,” the report said, followed by Myanmar (15 times), Sudan and Iran (five times each). Another report by Top10VPN, a global digital privacy and research group also mentioned internet shutdowns cost India $2.8 billion.