#KeepItOn Report - The return of digital authoritarianism: internet shutdowns in 2021

#KeepItOn: U.N. spotlights global impacts of internet shutdowns with new report

Today, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) built on civil society’s wave of pressure to elevate the human rights impacts of internet shutdowns globally and highlight the need for urgent, concrete action with the official launch of its highly anticipated Human Rights Council report, Internet shutdowns: trends, causes, legal implications and impacts on a range of human rights.

“The dramatic real-life effects of shutdowns on the lives and human rights of millions of people are vastly underappreciated and deserve much greater attention from States, international organizations, businesses and civil society,” the report states, shining notable attention on economic, social, and cultural rights. 

Access Now welcomes the final report, and strongly supports the call for a new “collaborative mechanism for the systematic collection of information on mandated disruptions,” into which “States, civil society and companies all contribute.”

“Initiating an internet shutdown is a choice that an increasing number of authorities make to suppress and oppress,” said Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now. “These choices must be met with equal resistance. The new Human Rights Council report on internet shutdowns will help amplify the fight to #KeepItOn.”

Based on the work of Access Now and organizations from around the world, this new report thrusts this devastating, and life-impacting  issue of internet shutdowns into the international spotlight, and serves as an important advocacy tool for activists around the world. Access Now contributed a written submission, informed by, and with data from, the #KeepItOn campaign, to inform and provide relevant information to the OHCHR. 

“Access Now commends the High Commissioner for moving the needle forward from normative statement to concrete measures to combat internet shutdowns,” said Laura O’Brien, Senior UN Advocacy Officer at Access Now. “Such a collaborative mechanism — which requires widespread support and funding, and is centered on civil society voices — is urgently needed.”  

The report was unpacked at RightsCon 2022 during Fireside Chat: Local-to-global efforts to flip the switch on internet shutdowns. In the session, Berhan Taye, Senior Advisor, Internet Governance and Policy at Internews, Peggy Hicks, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures, and Right to Development Division at OHCHR, and Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now, outlined the extreme and varying impacts of shutdowns on people’s economic and social development — such as access to employment and education — and on their civil and political rights. Speakers sought to use the new report to “bring the conversation to where it’s happening,” or the national contexts where shutdowns occur.