Kyoto, Japan — Today, thirty-eight governments, who compose the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), condemn internet shutdowns and network disruptions amid elections. The joint statement — issued during the annual United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF) — calls on governments to stop shutting down the internet and digital communications platforms before, during, and after electoral periods in accordance with States’ international human rights obligations.
The joint statement underscores that “protecting, respecting, and promoting human rights is essential to foster free and fair elections.” It states that by “obstructing the free flow of information, opinions, and expression […] internet shutdowns threaten the legitimacy of the electoral process” and ultimately undermine public trust.
With over two billion people worldwide scheduled to vote in 2024, it is essential for governments, civil society, and the private sector to coordinate to #KeepItOn globally. Since 2016, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition have documented at least 57 election-related internet shutdowns worldwide. Countries including Uganda, Gabon, Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq, and Belarus, have demonstrated a pattern of weaponizing internet shutdowns as a tool of control, while shielding human rights abuses perpetrated with impunity. Citing the extensive data and research from a range of actors — including the #KeepItOn coalition — the joint statement highlights the devastating impact of internet shutdowns on human rights during electoral periods, incitement to hostility and violence, and the economy.
The joint statement marks the third FOC initiative condemning internet shutdowns. It follows the initial 2017 Joint Statement on State Sponsored Network Disruptions, and Accompanying Good Practices for Governments, and the 2022 Joint Statement on Internet Shutdowns in Iran, — the first ever FOC country-specific statement.
The joint statement has already received strong support during the annual IGF, with civil society and academics endorsing it during today’s dedicated shutdowns and elections IGF session, and should be used for future advocacy at the domestic, regional, and international level.