India tops global internet shutdowns list again, say reports

59.1 million users hit by 7956 hours of shutdown in 2023


March 22, 2024

/ By / New Delhi

India tops global internet shutdowns list again, say reports

India imposed 30 internet restrictions in 2023

India once again topped the dubious list of nations with maximum shutdowns of internet in 2023 says a global report. Manipur, which has been riven by ethnic conflict for over a year, saw the worst impact, with over 5,000 hours of shutdown, while overall, 59.1 million internet users in India were hit by the shutdowns.

Rate this post

In 2023, India again leads the internet shutdown in the world after Myanmar, with as many as 7,956 hours of shutdowns, reported by the UK-based independent virtual private network Top10VPN. India imposed 30 internet restrictions through the last year, of which eight were in relation to anti-government protests, this includes the ongoing mobile data service suspension in several districts of Manipur.

The northeastern state bore the brunt of this blackout, enduring over 5,000 hours of disconnectedness as tensions between the Kuki and Meitei tribes mounted, leading to large-scale violence. The violence has pit the Meiteis, who constitute a majority of those residing in the Imphal Valley, against the Kuki-Zo tribal community from the surrounding hills. The clashes have resulted in the loss of at least 180 lives.

In India’s overall count, the internet shutdowns in Manipur emerged as the most significant contributor, with the report citing a loss of USD 318 million to the economy throughout the year. Notably, Manipur’s situation underscored a broader trend, as the northeastern states collectively experienced 5,108 in internet shutdowns in the year. These disruptions not only hindered access to crucial online services but also inflicted substantial economic repercussions, amplifying concerns about digital infrastructure resilience and regional connectivity, says the report.

On December 1, the Manipur High Court told the Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state that the ban on mobile internet services could not continue as it violated the right to free speech under Article 21 of the Constitution. But the situation remains the same.

India’s year-on-year performance saw a decline compared to 2022, during which it experienced 34 significant internet disruptions, resulting in a USD 184.3 million economic loss. This downturn also surpassed the figures from 2021, where the revenue drain amounted to USD 583 million.

The report says that states and union territories such as Haryana, Punjab, Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir are among others which were impacted by shutdowns.

Jammu and Kashmir, which recorded 42 internet shutdowns in 2022 the highest in a single region in the world, saw a significant reduction to four “short-term” internet shutdowns in 2023, according to the reports.

Another report, Netloss, by the global non-profit organisation, the Internet Society, highlighted the economic impact of shutdowns enforced by law enforcement agencies in regions like Manipur and Punjab. According to the report, these shutdowns incurred a substantial cost to the Indian economy, estimated at USD 1.9 billion during the first half of 2023. Such disruptions not only impede the flow of information and communication but also have tangible economic repercussions.

The ramifications of this prolonged shutdown were felt far and wide, affecting 59.1 million users and causing a global economic loss exceeding USD 9.13 billion, it says.

The countries that bore the most economic loss due to internet shutdowns were Russia USD 4.02 billion, Ethiopia USD 1.59 billion, and Iran USD 920.2 million, adds the report.

X, formerly Twitter, an American social media company was the most blocked social media platform in India, experiencing 10,683 hours of disruption, 18 pc more than Instagram and 26 pc more than TikTok.

Last month the Indian government had asked the platform to block certain accounts and posts on its platform. Failures to do so would result in potential penalties including significant fines and imprisonment, the company’s global government affairs team said in a post on the platform.

“In compliance with the orders, we will withhold these accounts and posts in India alone. However, we disagree with these actions and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts,” the company’s global government affairs team said in the post.

The country has already experienced an additional instance of an internet blackout in the early days of 2024, signalling ongoing disruptions to online services. India is at risk of more restrictions as elections draw near given their track record of imposing internet shutdowns in the past.



    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *