Kris Ruijgrok: The politics behind India’s internet shutdowns
January 8, 2020 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm UTC+1
India is the world’s largest democracy, but also holds the dubious record of having the highest number of internet shutdowns worldwide. Concerningly moreover, the frequency of shutdowns in India is only increasing. According to the Software Freedom and Law Center (SFLC.in), an Indian NGO defending digital rights, the number of shutdowns rose from 6 in 2014 to 14 in 2015, 31 in 2016, 79 in 2017, to 134 (!) internet shutdowns in 2018. When a shutdown in India takes place, it is usually justified by government officials either as a measure to prevent social unrest and ethnic clashes or to restore law and order. Critics by contrast, point towards the huge societal, economic and psychological repercussions of a shutdown, and furthermore claim that it is an authoritarian practice that limits the free flow of information and silences dissent. My project aims to understand what explains the staggering number of Indian internet shutdowns. Despite increasing efforts to measure and document network disruptions from a technical point of view, in India and beyond, we still have very limited knowledge about the social and political circumstances that lead to an internet shutdown.