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Violence & Internet Shutdowns In 2023: The Worst Year On Record

Content note: The following post contains references to violence.

By almost every measure, 2023 was the worst year of internet shutdowns on record. Authorities deliberately interrupted the internet at least 283 times in 39 countries concealing, enabling, and exacerbating violence, war crimes, attacks on democracy, and other atrocities, crushing the human rights of millions of people.

Launching today, May 15, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition’s new report, Shrinking democracy, growing violence: Internet shutdowns in 2023, exposes the unparalleled impact and destruction of these brutal attacks on human rights throughout a dangerous year of extremes. Read the full report and global snapshot.

“The year 2023 was one of sheer devastation invoked and intensified by internet shutdowns,” said Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now. “From Palestine to Myanmar, the goal was ultimate disruption, and authorities delivered — they hit the kill switch at precarious and frightening times, landing the biggest blows at the intersection of physical endangerment, mental anguish, and community desolation.”

Key findings include:

  • The worst year on record: authorities implemented at least 283 internet shutdowns in 39 countries — a 41% increase from 201 shutdowns in 40 countries in 2022;
  • The leading trigger: warring parties shut down the internet during conflict at least 74 times in nine countries including Palestine, Myanmar, Sudan, and Ukraine;
  • The escalating scale: millions of people in India, Iran, Myanmar, Palestine, and Ukraine lived through at least 211 shutdowns — 75% of the global total — while authorities in areas of Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Pakistan prolonged ongoing shutdowns;
  • The broadening scope: there were at least 80 multi-regional or nationwide blocks;
  • The new offenders: Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, and Suriname shut down the internet for the first time;
  • The violence: there were at least 173 shutdowns corresponding to acts of violence — a 26% increase from 2022 — and at least 51 shutdowns in 11 countries coinciding with documented grave human rights abuses;
  • The shrinking democracy: there were at least 63 shutdowns in 15 countries during protests, and at least five shutdowns in five countries tied to elections; and
  • The positives: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone — all with shutdown histories — upheld commitments to #KeepItOn; the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice again ruled against the use of shutdowns; and the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) published a landmark statement urging governments to stop shutting down the internet during elections.
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“Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition cannot underscore enough the gravity of the 2023 internet shutdown landscape,” said Zach Rosson, #KeepItOn Data Analyst at Access Now. “We are at a tipping point, so take this as a wake up call: all stakeholders across the globe — governments, civil society, and the private sector alike — must take urgent action to permanently end internet shutdowns.”

In 2023, authorities and warring parties shut down the internet in: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somaliland, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Tanzania, Türkiye, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

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