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Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur, David Kaye’s study on Freedom of Expression in Telecommunications and Internet Access

by sflc_admin    |    November 9, 2016

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, is conducting a study on Freedom of Expression in Telecommunications and Internet Access as part of his multi-year study on freedom of expression and the private sector in the digital age. In his latest study, the Special Rapporteur will examine State regulation and action that affect access to telecommunications and Internet networks and services, as well as analyze the relevant internal policies and practices of Telcos, ISPs and associated businesses. As part of this study, comments were solicited from NGOs and other stakeholders, specifically inviting information on the trends in State regulation fine tuned to the regions most affected, along with an assessment of the impact of such regulation on freedom of expression, and efforts to prevent, mitigate or challenge such impact.

On the Special Rapporteur’s queries regarding the trends in State regulation, our response focused on India’s record of restricting region-wide Internet access at frequent intervals. We outlined the relevant laws and policies provisioning such action, and provided expanded statistics based on our existing research and database on Internet shutdowns in India since 2013. These statistics contained more nuanced insights into India’s record of Internet shutdowns, and categorized past instances based on the type (mobile/fixed-line/both), duration, and nature (preventive/reactive) of shutdowns.

(The data produced below for the purposes of this submission is now outdated. We have revised these trends on 6th February, 2017 and these can be accessed here. For a revised list maintained by us on the number of shutdowns in India, refer here.)

 

Types of shutdowns

Year

Mobile

Fixed-line

Both

Total

2013

2014

2015

2016

3

3

10

16

-

-

-

-

-

1

5

8

3

4

15

24

Total

32

14

46

 

Durations of shutdowns

Year

Less than 24 hours

24 – 72 hours

More than 72 hours

Information not available

Total

2013

2014

2015

2016

-

1

7

5

-

1

3

8

1

-

2

6

2

2

3

5

3

4

15

24

Total

13

12

9

12

46

 

Nature of shutdowns

Year

Preventive action

Reactive action

2013

2014

2015

2016

-

3

8

9

3

1

7

15

Total

20

26

In our submission, we also touched upon a few notable legal challenges brought against Internet shutdowns and censorship, and analysed the impact of such restrictions on freedom of expression. A database of Internet censorship incidents between 2012 and 2015 was also included. The full text of our submission can be accessed here.

Image Credits: Rachel Hinman, CC BY 2.0; available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhinman/3757974502/

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