Authoritarians love internet shutdowns
There’s been plenty of online squawking about social media companies “censoring” this, that, or the other edge-lordy voice, coupled with demands the government force those companies to host any type of speech the state demands.
But how about some real censorship – the state-sponsored and -enforced kind that routinely kicks everyone offline? It happens around the world, and is getting much more common, particularly among the world’s authoritarian governments:
Over the last decade, governments worldwide have intentionally shut down the internet at least 850 times, with a whopping 90% of those shutdowns taking place over just the last five years.
What’s behind this troubling trend? “More people are getting online and getting access to the internet,” said Marianne Díaz Hernández, a lawyer in Venezuela and a fellow with the nonprofit Access Now. “As governments see this as a threat, they start thinking the internet is something they need to control.”
These staggering statistics come from a new report…by Access Now and Jigsaw, a division of Alphabet that focuses on addressing societal threats with technology. The report documents the history of internet shutdowns over the last decade, the economic toll shutdowns take on the countries that impose them and what governments and the broader business and civil society community can do to stop what has fast become a widespread and grave human rights violation.
That’s censorship – shutting down programs, or the entire internet – because the state determines it’s a threat. We have a First Amendment that prevents government from mandating or barring speech. We too often forget just how critical it is to human freedom.