In 2022, authorities shut down the internet across 35 countries — the highest number ever recorded in a single year — at least 187 times. These protracted and maliciously targeted attacks on human rights were deployed to wipe out democratic movements, crush people power, and provide cover for violence. Leaders in Myanmar and Ethiopia are already replicating these oppressive tactics in 2023.
Launching today, February 28, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition’s new report, Weapons of control, shields of impunity: Internet shutdowns in 2022, reveals and unpacks the global resurgence of internet shutdowns over the span of one catastrophic year for human rights. Read the full report and global snapshot.
“Governments wield internet shutdowns as weapons of control and shields of impunity,” said Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now. “In 2022, under authoritarian regimes and in democracies, powermongers accelerated their use of these callous tactics, disrupting the internet to fuel their agendas of oppression — manipulating narratives, silencing voices, and ensuring cover for their own acts of violence and abuse. Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition know open, secure internet access belongs to all, and we will continue to meet these attacks on human rights with collective defiance.”
Key findings include:
- The total: at least 187 shutdowns across 35 countries;
- The biggest offender: India implemented at least 84 shutdowns — the highest number for the fifth year;
- The attacks in conflict and occupation: Russia shut down the internet at least 22 times in Ukraine, Ethiopia dragged on the over two-year long shutdown in Tigray, and the junta disconnected people in Myanmar at least seven times;
- The triggers: authorities across the globe interfered with access during high-profile events such as public demonstrations, conflict, school exams, and elections — the majority of Iran’s 18 shutdowns were deployed during protests;
- The impunity: shutdowns shrouded human rights abuses and violence through at least 48 disruptions in 14 countries;
- The resurgence: authorities hit the kill switch at least 184 times across 34 countries in 2021, and at least 159 times in 29 countries in 2020 — a notable drop at the height of the pandemic; and
- The positives: West Africa’s top court declared Nigeria’s Twitter ban unlawful, many countries upheld internet access throughout elections, and the #KeepItOn coalition grew to over 300 members from 105 countries.
In 2022, authorities shut down the internet in: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tunisia, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
“2022 was a catastrophe for human rights,” said Zach Rosson, #KeepItOn Data Analyst at Access Now. “The damage internet shutdowns caused last year is unfathomable, but, in 2023 and beyond, it is not inevitable. We — as an international community — have the power and the momentum to not only stop the resurging global trend of deliberate disruptions, but to expunge it for good.”
Read the full report and the global snapshot.