• Shutdown cases decrease by 14% in the first half of 2022
About 5.7 billion people in 76 countries have experienced both partial and total internet shutdowns since 2015 to date. Also, more citizens were affected by internet disruptions in the first half of the year, about 1.89 billion people compared to 1.54 billion in the second half of 2021, although cases fell by 14 percent.
Surfshark’s internet shutdown tracker, which revealed this, also revealed that Africa is one of the hardest-hit countries by internet censorship in terms of population. It pointed out that eight in 10 Africans have felt internet and social media shutdowns.
Surfshark, a cybersecurity firm and internet watchdog Netblocks, found in the report that undemocratic governments around the world are increasingly resorting to internet blackouts and social media censorship to maintain their rule. They use it to prevent the spread of information and hamper organizational efforts.
Remember that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government banned the use of Twitter in Nigeria last June. The ban lasted 222 days with the economy losing N546.5 billion. The President lifted the ban on January 12, 2022 after receiving a serious commitment from Twitter’s management, which included setting up a permanent office in Nigeria.
Sierra Leone’s government shut down the internet in the country last week after political protests erupted.
According to the Paradigm Initiative (PIN), a social enterprise working to defend citizens’ digital rights, it found that these closures violate Chapter Three of Sierra Leone’s Constitution, which grants its citizens their rights to freedom of conscience, opinion, Assembly and Association.
In addition, Surfshark said of the 72 cases of internet disruption in 2022, social media platforms were attacked twice in Africa and Europe and once in Asia and South America.
In total, there have been 88 cases of internet restrictions in Africa since 2015, mostly related to civil unrest and protests.
In the first half of 2022, Surfshark registered 66 internet outages in six countries and territories: Burkina Faso, India, Jammu and Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Sudan. The Internet was shut down locally in three countries and territories (India, Jammu and Kashmir region and Pakistan). In comparison, three countries (Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan and Sudan) have opted to cut internet connections across the country, despite the fact that doing so is the most crippling to the economy.
The report found that 85 per cent of internet disconnection cases (61) occurred in India and the Jammu and Kashmir region, twice in Burkina Faso and once in the rest of the affected countries. As a result, Asia has been considered the most censored continent in the world for the past six months.
According to the cybersecurity firm, “Internet confinement cases have decreased by 14 percent globally in the first half of this year – from 84 in H2 2021 to 72.
Internet outages and restrictions were recorded in 10 countries, 85 percent of them in India and the Jammu and Kashmir region, making Asia the leading continent in Internet outages.
The continent also leads in terms of social media disruption over the seven-year period.
Out of 72 cases of internet disruption in 2022, social media platforms were attacked six times: twice in Europe and Africa and once in Asia and South America. “Despite a drop in cases, more citizens were affected by new internet disruptions in the first half of 2022 – 1.89 billion people compared to 1.54 billion in the second half of 2021.”
Surfshark Principal Investigator Agneska Sablovskaja said: “We are seeing a positive trend in internet restriction cases this half of the year. Still, the number of countries weaponizing internet disruption to silence civil unrest remains worryingly high. Most cases are national or local in scale, where the internet slows down or shuts down completely, leaving people without most of their means of communication.”
For NetBlocks Chief Executive Officer Alp Toker, “The slight decline in observed nationwide internet shutdowns in early 2022 follows a period of unprecedented internet confidence during the pandemic. However, this is no respite – the global decline in freedoms continues, making it essential to monitor and support human rights and democracy in the digital realm.”