Record number of countries enforced internet blackouts in 2022, India single “biggest offender” for fifth time

A record number of countries have enforced internet shutdowns in 2022 that had a “devastating impact on human lives”, according to the report by the digital rights group Access Now and the #KeepItOn campaign – a coalition of about 70 organisations.

The report documented 187 blackouts following protests, active conflict, examinations, elections and political instability across 35 countries.

India emerged as the single “biggest offender” for a fifth consecutive year, with at least 84 internet blackouts in 2022.

Ukraine suffered 22 shutdowns imposed by the Russian military during its full-scale invasion, while Iran followed with 18 during mass protests around the country.

“Authorities or aggressors in all 35 countries imposed shutdowns during protests, active conflict, school examinations, elections, periods of political instability, or high-profile events like religious holidays or visits by government officials with an ultimate goal to assert control and silence voices. A majority of these shutdowns also provided cover for perpetrators to commit human rights abuses with impunity,” read the report.

It added: “All internet shutdowns violate human rights. In 2022, 133 of the 187 total shutdowns occurred alongside some form of violence, compared to 112 in 2021, 99 in 2020, and 75 in 2019. In some contexts, like Iran, authorities responded to protests with brutal crackdowns and internet shutdowns, and in other contexts, such as during conflicts and war, governments, warring parties, or military regimes deployed shutdowns in apparent attempts to hide human rights and humanitarian law violations such as murder, torture, rape, and other war crimes. Missile strikes led to 15 shutdowns in 2022 — 14 launched by the Russian military on cities across Ukraine and one launched by Saudi-led coalition forces on a telecommunications facility in Yemen.”