The previous decade has witnessed an exponential increase in internet shutdowns in India with a total count of 690, out of which 110 had been implemented in the year 2021. The year 2022 has seen 75 shutdowns till the publication of this report. The negative impact of the same cannot be measured in monetary terms alone, but through focusing on the flagrant infringement of fundamental rights, along with restricted access to essential services, bringing the lives of millions across the nation to a virtual standstill. In order to combat the lacuna of awareness on the rampant misuse of internet shutdowns in India, SFLC.in has published a detailed report attempting to fully understand their frequency, extent and impact in India. This scoping and assessment exercise analyzes various patterns and trends behind the imposition of these shutdowns, studies the legal mechanism and policy outlook adopted, maps the stakeholders involved and assesses the impact of the same.
The report is heavily based upon the Internet Shutdowns tracker maintained by SFLC which documents every single internet shutdown that has taken place pan-India since 2012, notably the only real-time database of its kind in the country. The methodology behind the tracker forms the basis of the empirical sources of the report, tracking the duration, impacted region, nature of the shutdown (whether preventive or reactive), nature of the services suspended, as well as the reasons for which the shutdown has been imposed, as per the orders of the Government. Wherever sufficient information has not been made available in the public domain, SFLC.in has robustly filed requests under the Right to Information Act and gathered data upon response to these requests.
Moreover the report analyzes the impact of internet shutdowns from a human rights and economical perspective, and how they affect the access to basic essential services, such education and healthcare. According to studies, India has suffered a loss of $174.6 million in the year 2022 alone, due to internet shutdowns, with long-term shutdowns leading to drastic impacts on the livelihood of people, directly contributing to the loss of employment. It brings to light the indiscriminate detriment caused to minority and underprivileged groups and their increased vunerabilty due to the hapazard use of Kill Switch.
The report also dives into the legislative framework behind the imposition of internet shutdowns and the interwoven web of applicable legislations and procedures prescribed for their regulation. It also extensively covers the judicial precedents and policy developments in the regulation of internet shutdowns, in India and across the world. Lastly, in order to accurately assess the role which each societal stakeholder which affects, and gets affected in the chain of causality during an internet shutdown, the report dissects each stakeholder group and maps the extent and intensity of the impact suffered by them due to an internet shutdown.
The report can be accessed below: