KeepItOn 2023 Report Internet Shutdowns

Unabashed and unabated: India leads the world shutdown count for sixth year 

Read in Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Meitei (Romanized), Punjabi, Thadou, Telugu or Urdu.

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. For the sixth year in a row, India led the world in internet shutdowns, disrupting the internet at least 116 times.

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, global snapshot, and Asia Pacific deepdive.

Across India in 2023, internet shutdowns undermined democracy, with the government implementing more shutdowns than any other on earth, for the sixth time in a row. From Manipur to Punjab, Indian authorities steamrolled over people’s right to free speech, information, and assembly with unjustified shutdowns. Namrata Maheshwari, Senior Policy Counsel at Access Now

Key India findings include:

  • The record: India, for the sixth time, carried the shameful mantle of the world’s internet shutdown leader with at least 116 recorded shutdowns;
  • The scope: in the last five years, Indian authorities have hit the kill switch over 500 times, repeatedly plunging millions in the world’s largest democracy into darkness;
  • The worst affected: between May and December, roughly 3.2 million people in Manipur suffered under a statewide shutdown for 212 days;
  • The offenders: a total of 13 states and union territories imposed shutdowns in 2023, where seven of them disrupted internet services five or more times;
  • The duration: shutdowns spanning over five days or more shot up from 15% of all shutdowns in 2022 to more than 41% in 2023
  • The digital divide: 59% of shutdowns exclusively targeted mobile networks in a country where almost 96% of people with internet access depend on wireless services; and
  • The challenge: four years after the historic Bhasin versus Union of India judgment, officials continue to fail to publish shutdown orders and have been repeatedly corrected by courts for failing to comply.
It is unacceptable for India’s highest elected officials to repeatedly profess a commitment to a ‘Digital India’ even as they relentlessly order internet shutdowns impacting millions of the most vulnerable, at-risk people. With over 500 documented shutdowns in the past five years, Indian government leaders must immediately commit to ensuring that the world’s largest democracy is internet shutdown free if they wish to be credible in their efforts to be recognised as global digitization leaders. They cannot claim to advance digital access for the world while disrespecting human rights in the digital age at home. Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now

In 2023, authorities and warring parties continued to abuse shutdowns in the Asia Pacific region from China to Myanmar. Pakistan and Bangladesh entrenched themselves further in suppression of protests and dissent, online and off, while Nepal joined the shame list with its blocking of TikTok.

Read the full report, global snapshot, and Asia Pacific deepdive.