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  • Ayushi Shrivastava

ANALYSIS OF INTERNET SHUTDOWN VIOLATION IN LIGHT OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION

Author: Ayushi Shrivastava

Hitkarini Law College

Credit: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fsurfshark.com%2Fresearch%2Fstudy%2Finternet-shutdowns-half-year-recap-2023&psig=AOvVaw2pN29TjwecQZBMVVZA3a1R&ust=1701525437247000&source=images&cd=vfe&opi=89978449&ved=0CAUQjB1qFwoTCNi6jqyy7oIDFQAAAAAdAAAAABAK
ANALYSIS OF INTERNET SHUTDOWN VIOLATION IN LIGHT OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION

Abstract:

Internet shutdowns have been a hot topic for some time. Internet shutdowns often occur during protests, exams, and elections. The Indian Constitution provides the right to freedom of speech and expression hidden in Article 19(1). Article 19(2) states that the government may impose restrictions on rights as long as the restrictions are reasonable. Prolonged internet shutdowns or shutdowns for inappropriate circumstances are unjust and violate the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. In this research paper, we will explain what exactly an internet shutdown is, when it occurs, what steps must be followed, and most importantly, what it means to freedom of expression, analyzed the impact. However, research is being conducted on the frequency of internet problems in some countries, including India. India is ahead of all other countries. Shutting down the internet is unacceptable for a country's economy and democracy, and shutting down the internet by governments is a direct violation of human rights and digital freedoms.

Keywords: Internet, Freedom of speech, Indian Constitution, Digital, and Fundamental Rights.

Introduction:

An Internet outage is characterized by a determined disruption of network or electronic communications that leaves users inaccessible in a quiet area. Internet outages dominate information transmission. Most of the time, government or corporate offices shut down the World Wide Web. Turning off the Internet is also often called a “kill switch”. This often includes a complete loss of Internet connection or access to Internet services. Network shutdowns can occur nationwide, at the national level, when people across the organization cannot access the network, a locality cannot be moved or fixed. A state, city, or other embattled country no longer has access to the Internet. Governments often tend to reduce 2G Internet and mobile services or further limit transmission capacity. Even if this is achieved, having sufficient access to an Internet connection is quite difficult. Internet shutdowns began attracting international attention during Egypt's 2011 uprising. At the same time, the regime shut down the Internet for about a week, disrupting transportation by dissidents. When using Internet Shutdown, it is almost impossible to access or relay information, watch videos or live stream. Internet shutdowns are becoming a reality largely due to political and national security disruptions. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a review titled Internet Shutdown: Causes, Trends and Implications and Legal Implications for the Diversification of Human Rights. The document begins by saying that an Internet shutdown in the country would have serious consequences for the security and health of the economy's information flow.

Worldwide Internet Shutdown:

One of the first and most important Internet shutdowns to raise global awareness was the Internet shutdown that occurred in Egypt. It led to mass arrests and killings. Many of the takedowns were persuasive and based on modest hate speech aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation, disinformation, and other content deemed illegal or harmful. A total of 931 closures were reported in 74 countries between 2016 and 2021. Most of the internet outages were concentrated in Asia and Africa. According to information, internet connectivity was cut off in more than 13 African countries during the election period. Asia is reportedly the most censored continent. Forcing a shutdown of the internet violates fundamental rights because it actually violates fundamental rights. Internet Outages in India 85% of the world's internet traffic outages occur in India. The internet has been shut down approximately 106 times in India. And most of the factors that led to India's closure were due to at least 85 states of Jammu and Kashmir. There were an estimated 647 government internet shutdowns across India between January 2012 and 2022, resulting in the highest number of bans ever recorded internationally. According to the Freedom House Index, India received a rating of 'Partially Free Democracy' and 'Mediocre' (66/100) on the 2022 Internet Freedom Scale. 225 closures were recorded

during public demonstrations related to various social, political and economic grievances. This corresponds to approximately the average of all closures registered by organizations representing civil society between 2016 and 2021. India was the third most affected country in the world in 2019, after Iraq and Sudan. The forced internet outage is expected to last well over 4,000 hours, cost the country more than $1. 3 billion, and even online students will be unable to study.

Impact of Internet Shutdown:

Internet Shutdown has a serious impact on the country. It affects the country's economy, education, health and human rights.

Economy: It is important to emphasize the economic impact of any sector that disrupts financial processes, trade and industry. As evidenced by the World Bank, spending on internet shutdowns in Myanmar from February to December 2021 totaled approximately $2.8 billion.

Education: Affects learning outcomes, middle school planning, and communication between teachers, school administrators, and families.

Health and Humanitarian Assistance: Internet outages can limit access to essential health services, impact the supply of medicines, and limit communication between health care providers.

Internet Shutdown in India:

At a time when India's buzzword is 'Digital India', internet shutdowns across the country are a stain on India's growth as a digital economy. This not only hinders digital growth but also impacts India's reputation as the world's largest democracy. Internet shutdowns in India have been justified on grounds such as protecting national security, curbing hatred, and restricting the flow of false information. For the fourth consecutive year, 106 internet shutdowns were exploited in India, more than any other country in 2021. India experienced the highest number of shutdowns (683) in the world in 2021 and 2022. This questionable record is expected to continue until 2022. In the first two months of this year, of the 10 countries where such disruptions and restrictions occurred, 85% of the internet shutdowns were due to India. The extent of the internet outage has not been officially announced. In some states, including Rajasthan, telecom companies are sending SMS messages to warn people about internet service outages. Surprisingly, no records of internet shutdowns ordered by state governments are maintained by either the Ministry of Transport or the MHA, and it is unclear how many cyber shutdowns were exploited by the department or state, chaired the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology.

Jammu and Kashmir has had the highest number of internet shutdowns:

Since 2012, with over 411 outages, and the longest-lasting shutdown was 522 days, imposed after the

abrogation of Article 370. Most are imprisoned in states, with Rajasthan shutting down 88 such legislators in nearly a decade. Issues range from exemptions from the Gujjar community on grounds of transgression to preventing cheating in the Rajasthan Teacher Eligibility Test (REET), which selected primary school teachers last year and was attended by around 1.6 million candidates. I did [4. August 2019 – February 6, 2021] With the abrogation of Article 370, highway services in Jammu and

Kashmir have been suspended for national security reasons. This is likely a precautionary shutdown and has only been partially implemented so far. The lockdown initially included cutting off landline and mobile assistance. The curb was gradually raised to allow 2G connectivity. After 552 days without internet, the state finally got his 4G connection again. Kargil, Ladakh [4. August 2019 to December 27, 2019] Since August 2019, Kargil region in Ladakh region has been under a 145-day lockdown in the once independent state of Kashmir and Jammu. With the abrogation of Article 370, the shutdown was implemented along with the blocking of all landline, mobile and SMS communications. It was repealed in the district in December 2019, but remains in effect in other parts of the former state. Jammu and Kashmir and Kashmir [8. July 2016 to November 19, 2016] Due to the riots sparked by the death of Burhan Wani in July 2016, the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is part of the state, The state experienced its longest internet outage. Mobile internet services were suspended for 133 days. Mobile internet access for postpaid and prepaid customers was restored in November 2016 and January 2017, respectively. The former federal state has been without internet connectivity for more than six months.

Internet Shutdown Procedures:

Congress leader Varun Gandhi asked in February 2022 whether the government has or intends to keep records of shutdowns and if not, what procedures are being used. I asked if it would be done. Devusinh Chauhan, Suspension of Telecommunications Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Regulations, 2017, the Secretary of State for Communications shall require that a U.S. analysis committee headed by the Secretary (the highest-ranking civilian official): I answered yes. state prescription) to determine whether the closure was carried out in accordance with regulations. Interior officials at the federal and state levels have the power to impose closures based on guidelines set by the interim government, which say no permanent closures are expected "for reasons of public emergency or public safety." stipulated.

Conclusion:

India is the world's largest democracy and fastest growing economy. If India continues to use such arbitrary powers to restrict internet usage, it will give the world a bad image of itself. India, with serious national security concerns, cannot have the right to freedom of expression. However, explicit discretion is required as to when limits should or should not be imposed, and whether limits are appropriate. Internet blocking not only restricts freedom of expression but also affects the well-being of the population and should only be done when the situation is serious and presents an honest ultimatum to the country and its people. Because India's economy is largely informal, it is difficult to determine the exact economic impact of the government shutdown. But by paying attention to the consequences of shutting down the Internet, governments will not have to consider the alternative of shutting down the Internet completely.

References:

[1] The dramatic real-life effect of internet shutdown, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-

releases/2022/06/internet-shutdowns-un-report-details-dramattic-impact-peoples-lives-and-

human (last visit July 2023)

[2] Rishik Singh, The frequency reasons and controversy, https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-the-frequency-reasons-and-controversy-

over-internet-suspensions-by-the-government-8005450/ (last visit July 2023)

[3] N.V Ramana J. In the supreme court of India civil original jurisdiction,

https://www.iralr.in/post/violation-of-article-19-1-with-respect-to-internet-shutdowns-by-the-

indian-government-a-critical (last visit July 2023)

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