Having your internet connection cut off by your government is serious business, the good news, however, is that the frequency of internet shutdowns has dwindled.
This is according to research from Surfshark and Netblocks. The pair have analysed partial and complete internet and social media shutdowns between 2015 and now and there are some alarming figures to page through.
First the good news – Surfshark and Netblocks found no cases of blocking in South Africa. However, looking at the African continent as a whole, over one billion Africans have experienced internet and social media shutdowns. The only continent that has fewer shutdowns affecting people is North America where only 11 million citizens felt the effects of internet and social media shutdowns.
Even better news is that the number of internet restriction cases dropped 14 percent in the first half of 2022.
“We see a positive trend of internet restriction cases going down this half of the year. Nevertheless, the number of countries that use internet disruptions as a weapon to silence citizens’ unrest remains worryingly high. 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,” explains lead researcher at Surfshark, Agneska Sablovskaja.
“The slight decrease in observed nation-scale internet shutdowns in early 2022 follows a period of unprecedented reliance on the internet during the pandemic. Yet this is no reprieve — around the world the overall decline in freedoms continues, which is why it is essential to monitor and support human rights and democracy in the digital sphere,” adds chief executive officer at Netblocks, Alp Toker.
Looking at the Asia region, however, things are grim.
Of the internet disruptions and restrictions recorded this year, 85 percent (or 61 incidents) were in India, specifically the Jammu and Kashmir regions.
“In the first half of 2022, Surfshark registered 66 internet blackouts in six countries and territories: Burkina Faso, India, Jammu and Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Sudan. Internet was shut down locally in three countries and territories (India, the Jammu and Kashmir region, and Pakistan). In comparison, three countries (Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, and Sudan) chose to cut down internet connections nationwide, even though it cripples the economy the most,” Surfshark wrote in a press release.
The reasons for the shutdown in Asia are due to protests (148 shutdowns or restrictions), elections (30 shutdowns or restrictions), political turmoil (288 shutdowns or restrictions) and the law (10 shutdowns or restrictions).
Interestingly, Surfshark and Netblocks found “no evidence of internet disruptions in means of censorship” in China.
We had to stave off a wry smile here because while technically China hasn’t censored the internet, the internet in the region is highly regulated and policed and access to international services is restricted. Technically China looks good here, but it doesn’t paint the full picture of access in the country.
This is very interesting research and we recommend exploring the data visually over on Surfshark’s website here.
While South Africa hasn’t experienced an internet shutdown, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
Last year we spoke to founder and chief executive officer at Cybersec Clinique, Doreen Mokoena about how government could shut down the internet. You can also read more about what to do should the internet be shut down here.