A new report shows India’s regional Internet shutdowns cost its economy approximately $ 2.8 billion in 2020. This makes India the country that suffered the greatest damage from Internet manipulation by a government in the past year.
Internet shutdowns or deliberate interruptions to Internet access or electronic communications aimed at a specific location or population are often used by governments to control civil unrest, but often result in human rights violations, from the shutdown of the press to the obstruction of peaceful protests right up to blocking access to information.
Intermittent shutdowns across India, combined with the month-long power blackout in the disputed Kashmir region, accounted for 8,927 hours and affected over 10 million people, the report said. It also shows India and Myanmar are responsible for the longest shutdowns for the second year in a row.
The report “Global Costs of Internet Disconnections in 2020”, published by the review platform Top10VPN of the Virtual Provider Network (VPN), compiled cases of Internet tampering around the world over the course of the year and found that in 21 countries, including Belarus, Yemen and Myanmar is contributing over $ 4 billion in total losses – with India’s losses accounting for about three-quarters of total global costs.
Internet disruption in these countries came in various forms: catastrophes, social media shutdowns, and internet throttling (when internet service providers limit users’ bandwidth or internet speed), the report said.
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“Not only [internet disruptions] As an act of economic self-sabotage, they also violate citizens’ freedom of expression, the right to information and the right to peaceful assembly, “Samuel Woodhams, researcher for digital rights at Top10VPN and one of the authors of the report, told CoinDesk via email.
According to the report, internet disruptions in countries like Myanmar and Yemen may have prevented citizens, especially in rural areas, from receiving critical information and updates about the spread of COVID-19.
“By disrupting access to the Internet, authorities have denied citizens the right to access vital information about the virus … and possibly created conditions under which the virus could spread unabated,” said Woodhams.
However, the global economic cost of internet shutdowns in 2020 was down 50% from 2019, when Top10VPN’s annual analysis showed a loss of $ 8 billion. For example, 263 days of disruption in Iraq cost the nation $ 2.3 billion in 2019 compared to India, which lost $ 2.8 billion in over 8,000 days of disruption.
Woodhams stated that this was due to an inequality in the amount of interference.
“The shutdowns in Iraq and Sudan in 2019 were so expensive because they were nationwide and not localized. In India, all restrictions were regions, not the whole country, so the impact on the economy was less as only part of the population was restricted, ”Woodhams said.
Between 2019 and 2020, India was responsible for the longest internet shutdown in any democracy, as the Kashmir region stayed in the dark for at least seven months. When the internet was finally restored, users only had access to 2G speeds, an example of severe government internet throttling over an extended period of time.
“While there is often little transparency about who ordered the disruption, it is usually the authorities that force companies to slow down,” said Woodhams.
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He added that Top10VPN’s research team was up to date on internet shutdowns year-round, collecting data from a number of sources, including the nongovernmental internet monitoring organization Netblocks, which the researchers also used to estimate costs, and one Internet shutdown tracker from the Indian Software Freedom Law Center.
The goal of reports that compile the cost of global records of internet shutdowns is to get authorities around the world to think twice about introducing these deliberate digital disruptions, Woodhams said.