IGF 2020 WS #224 Network Disruptions; a growing threat to inclusivity


Organizer 1: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Speaker 1: Prasanth Sugathan, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Kris Ruijgrok, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Jan Rydzak, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Mishi Choudhary, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group


Birds of a Feather - Auditorium - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

1. How can the judiciary help in dealing with network shutdowns when the government imposes them? 2. How can citizens in conflict-prone areas be trained to document these shutdowns? 3. During Pandemics like COVID-19, Network disruptions can cause lethal harm, Can certain common guidelines be developed to address this? 4. Can a common understanding be developed by stakeholders across the world in combating these internet shutdowns?

- The increasing trend of Internet shutdowns/Network disruptions as a measure to curb dissent - How does civil society equip stakeholders to deal with this phenomenon? - The varied impact of these network shutdowns across geographical boundaries - Building a coalition to document and strategize against these network disruptions. - Developing a technology-based solution as an alternative for internet shutdowns.


GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


India is the world’s largest democracy, but also holds the dubious record of having the highest number of internet shutdowns worldwide. Worryingly Moreover, the frequency of shutdowns in India is only increasing. This panel discusses this troublesome trend, the main explanations for the high number of shutdowns, and the ways in which they can be fought most effectively. The central point of this panel is not to merely discuss the grave violation that Internet shutdowns cause but how they end up affecting billions of people economically, socially, by restricting their access to welfare schemes, education, and business opportunities. SFLC.in has been documenting experiences of Internet Shutdowns on the common man. There has been some judicial intervention on Internet shutdowns in India where SFLC.in has been both intervenors and petitioners. The speakers will provide an overview of the magnitude and severity of the problem of shutdowns in the Indian context, using data from SFLC.in’s ‘Internet Shutdown Tracker’ and an original survey that investigates the impact on affected populations. There are a number of reasons given by the State to shut down the Internet and there are litigations filed in various courts against arbitrary orders of shutdowns. There is a need to study the reasons given for shutdowns. The problem of the shutdown is not peculiar to India but has been on a rise in the global south. Governments have also started network throttling and using jammers to prevent citizens from using social media. It is important to understand and develop a collective understanding of the issue from across the world. This will help in policy discussions in this space as well as for building coalitions in addressing these problems.

Expected Outcomes

The outcome of the session is multi-fold: The first outcome is that by sharing, informing, and contextualizing the Internet Indian shutdowns, participants will get a better understanding of the causes, consequences, and impact of the shutdowns, as well as what so far has been done to address them. The second outcome is that the ‘lessons learned’ from this session can guide the work of those who want to combat internet shutdowns in various regions. A possible outcome of this session is to have a coordinated approach for judicial interventions in combating Internet shutdowns. We would also want to build an international coalition that could look at possible technological solutions to be used during an internet shutdown. The Potential collaborations/partnerships with other international organizations could emerge at IGF, which can assist organizations in resolving the menace of internet shutdowns.

- By collecting perspectives from the diverse participants of the panel about shutdowns in their own states. - By opening the floor to comments, suggestions, and questions for the last 30 mins of the session. - By using an interactive exercise at the beginning of the session.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Across the world, countries, and courts have started recognizing the right to internet access as a fundamental right. This also means that rights suppressing regimes have been forcing clampdowns on the internet citing reasons like the spread of misinformation and rumors. This has impacted many areas such as education, health, and welfare schemes. It is important to understand the importance of the internet in this day and age and to develop a common understanding to fight against arbitrary clampdowns of the internet. COVID-19, a pandemic that shook the world also saw government-imposed internet disruptions in areas like Kashmir(India), Rakhine State(Myanmar) as well as areas in Pakistan. This further made it difficult for citizens residing in these regions to counter the pandemic. These network disruptions result in deepening the digital divide. It is important to deal with these issues and develop measures to prevent this from happening in the future.

Relevance to Theme: Inclusive internet means an internet that is available for all, where it can be used to learn, express, and create. Network disruptions attack the core of this philosophy where a certain sect of the population is deprived of the internet for a duration which in turn poses an attack on a number of their fundamental rights. This session by aiming to address the menace of network disruptions and looking at possible solutions to these disruptions aims to help further accessibility of the internet for all. The first step in creating an inclusive internet is to ensure that the internet is not cut off to curb dissent and all have access to it.

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