IGF 2018 WS #299 Living in Digital Darkness: A Study on Internet Shutdowns

Format: 

Flash Session - 30 Min

Subtheme: 

Organizer 1: Prasanth Sugathan, Software Freedom Law Centre, India
Organizer 2: Sukarn Singh Maini, SFLC.in - Software Freedom Law Centre, India
Organizer 3: Priyanka Chaudhuri, Software Freedom Law Centre, India

Speaker 1: Prasanth Sugathan, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Sukarn Singh Maini, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Priyanka Chaudhuri, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Relevance: 

The Internet has long been identified as one of the greatest technological advancements of recent times and over the years has proven to be a critical enabler of social and economic change. As observed by the Outcome Document of the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the Overall Review of the Implementation of WSIS Outcomes, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) including the internet have seen penetration into almost all corners of the globe, created new opportunities for social interaction, enabled new business models, and contributed to economic growth and development in all other sectors. It was further observed that increased ICT connectivity, innovation, and access have played a critical role in enabling progress on the Millennium Development Goals.

However, Governments across the world have been increasingly resorting to Internet shutdowns as a means to control information exchange online. Internet shutdowns are imposed for a number of reasons, though most frequently as a response to law and order breakdowns. The frequent resort to Internet shutdowns, especially in developing countries is a cause for serious concern. Between January 2012 and May 1, 2018, India has experienced 174 Internet shutdowns for various reasons and durations across 19 of its 29 states. Apart from India, Internet shutdowns have also been reported in over 30 other countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mynamar, Egypt, Congo, Syria, Sudan, Burundi, Iraq, and Venezuela.

As a non-profit organization working on digital rights, one of SFLC.in’s key drivers is advocating for unhindered access to the Internet for all. In furtherance of this cause, we have been maintaining a dynamic ‘Internet Shutdown Tracker’, which documents reported instances of Internet shutdowns in India. Though it primarily relies on published reports, information is also collected directly from residents of affected areas, and this database has become a widely used repository of information on shutdowns. In addition, we recently (May 2018) published a report called - ‘Living in Digital Darkness: A Handbook on Internet Shutdowns in India’, in which we have discussed in detail about how Internet shutdowns have grown in India, the laws and policies that determine their imposition, the problems emanating from such shutdowns and the efforts to tackle the menace of such shutdowns.

Our flash session on internet shutdowns in India will comprehensively cover the work undertaken by SFLC.in in advocating for free access to the Internet and also creating a repository for documenting the instances of shutdowns in India. We will also invite collaborators at the forum to take the work forward, as we believe a number of steps are required to be taken by the multi-stakeholder community with regard to Internet shutdowns.

Session Content: 

Our flash session will be in the form of a presentation, wherein our subject matter expert will comprehensively cover our efforts in spreading awareness about Internet shutdowns in India. We will explain how the Internet Shutdown Tracker was conceptualized and built, how it is maintained, how new features were added to make the information more reliable, and how we used the data gathered over the years to publish our research report.

Our presentation will also highlight various factors around internet shutdowns such as - how Internet shutdowns have surfaced and grown in India, analysis of the laws and policies that govern their imposition, provide a glimpse into how internet shutdowns may cause real-world problems in the long and short run and highlight the efforts that have gone into defining and addressing internet shutdowns as a public policy issue.

Out of the 30 minutes, 10 minutes will be kept aside for audience participation (both physical and online) wherein questions may be put forth to the presenter.

Interventions: 

As this session is a flash session, our speaker will present the topic in an audio/ visual presentation and inform participants about the work done by our organization on the relevant topic i.e. Internet Shutdowns in India. The presentation is going to be for 20 minutes with 10 minutes allocated for audience participation (both physical and online) and interacting with prospective collaborators.

Diversity: 

The diversity requirement does not apply to flash sessions on an individual basis, because they are presentations.

Online Participation: 

At the end of our presentation, we will open the floor for audience participation for 10 minutes which will comprise of both physical and online interaction.

Discussion Facilitation: 

As the proposing organization has contributed substantially by spreading awareness about the topic of Internet Shutdowns in India and also launching a website for the tracking of shutdowns, a flash session format – which is in the form of a presentation – is best suited for this subject matter. A bulk of the session will be handled by a single presenter, who will present the organization’s work during the first 20 minutes of the session. Audience members will be encouraged to pose questions to the presenter during the last 10 minutes of the session, and the on-site and remote moderators will ensure that all substantial points of inquiry are taken up by the presenter.

Onsite Moderator: 
Online Moderator: 
Rapporteur: 

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678