Internet shutdowns are human rights violations

Ideas

Internet shutdowns are human rights violations

Most occur at times when people’s voices are most critical for democracy, such as protests and elections

Iwazi Maseko

The Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA (https://cipesa.org/?wpfb_dl=283)) report on Despots and Disruption (https://cipesa.org/?wpfb_dl=283) defines an internet shutdown as “the intentional blockage of access to the internet or sections of the internet such as social media platforms. Internet disruptions ordered by governments eager to disrupt communications and curtail citizens’ access to information to limit what the citizens can see, do or communicate.” CIPESA aims to enable policymakers to understand digital technologies and for various stakeholders to use these technologies to improve governance and livelihoods.

Tomiwa IIori, a researcher at the Centre of Human Rights (https://www.chr.up.ac.za/), says most internet shutdowns occur during protests and elections. He explains that governments claim the shutting down of the internet is in the interest of the public or a response to threats to public security such as civil unrest. IIori says governments use shutdowns “as a pretext to hide gross violations of human rights”.

Human rights violations are common in countries with long-serving rulers “who are clinging on to power. They find the power of the internet very invasive and threatening to their grasp of political power,” says IIori. The more authoritarian the system, the more likely the government is to shut down the internet during elections or political unrest...

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