Since 2019, access to the Internet and social media has been blocked in at least 35 countries, according to data from the NGO NetBlocks, which emphasizes that cutting off access to communications is used as a political tool.
Only since January this year, the organization NetBlocks, which deals with the protection of Internet freedom, has written four reports on Internet exclusions and cutting off access to social media due to political unrest.
The Internet has been switched off recently in Burma (Myanmar) from Sunday, January 31, in connection with a military coup and the detention of political leaders of its opponents. A connectivity analysis showed that network access in this country in Southeast Asia was cut off at the central level. The blocking of the possibility of connecting to the Internet mainly affected the services of mobile operators.
According to NetBlocks, on February 3, the availability of popular instant messengers and social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and some WhatsApp servers (for connections controlled by the state-owned internet operator MPT) was limited in Burma. A day later, the availability of these services was limited by the vast majority of communication service operators in the country. Access to Twitter was also restricted in Burma on Friday, February 5. NetBlocks data additionally shows that the Internet was cut off in the country almost completely on February 16.
Earlier this year, the Internet was also cut off in Russia - in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where it happened on January 23. According to NetBlocks, local six-hour communication blocks were closely related to public protests in response to the trial of the oppositionist Alexei Navalny. As in Burma, they mainly concerned calls from mobile networks.
From the beginning of 2021, access to the network was also cut in Uganda. The Internet was blocked there for five days, from January 13 to 18, and earlier in this country, it was impossible to use social media and messengers, including such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat or Telegram. According to NetBlocks, the complete cut-off of Uganda from access to the Internet was related to the presidential and parliamentary elections that took place in that country on January 14. Their goal, the organization claims, was to cut off citizens from accessing non-government information sources.
The first Internet access block registered by NetBlocks this year took place in Pakistan on January 9. The problem affected 62% telecommunications infrastructure in the country. According to the organization, private users as well as the corporate and business sectors were the hardest hit. The lack of access to the network was caused by the disconnection of access to wide-range electricity, which was caused by a failure in the operation of the energy infrastructure.
National internet blockades, decided by governments, have a negative impact on the economy and society. In 2020, India was the country that blocked access to the Internet for the longest time. Access to the network was cut off thereby over 8.9 thousand. hours during 75 incidents. According to data quoted by the American TV station CNBC, the country's economy cost about USD 2.8 billion.
CNBC estimates that many companies have implemented digital solutions in recent years, and online business has become the everyday life of many businesses. Switching off the Internet not only affects the possibility of executing orders for customers buying e.g. in e-commerce stores, but also disturbs the ability of companies to conduct internal communication, blocks payments and has a negative impact on cybersecurity.
As indicated by American television, internet blockades have the strongest negative impact on the health care sector, including medical facilities, including hospitals. Without access to the network, they cannot collect and process patient data, and often also use medical equipment based on an Internet connection.
Author: Małgorzata Fraser (PAP)