STOP Methodology KeepItOn 2023

#KeepItOn: why we’re updating our internet shutdown tracking methodology 

A cornerstone of the #KeepItOn coalition’s efforts to fight internet shutdowns around the world is the Shutdown Tracker Optimization Project (STOP), an extensive dataset of nearly 1,500 shutdowns that have occurred since 2016. But as the technical complexity, frequency, scope, and impact of shutdowns evolve, so too has the need to update how we monitor, measure, and map them. To this end, the #KeepItOn coalition has made some important changes to our STOP methodology. Read our FAQ below to learn more about what STOP is and what information it holds, why we’re updating the dataset, and how members of the digital rights community can share feedback on these changes.

What is STOP for? 

Documenting internet shutdowns around the world shines a light on a weapon that keeps people in the dark, disconnected, and uninformed. STOP supports #KeepItOn coalition partners and community members in their advocacy efforts, helps to map shutdowns’ increasing technical complexity, and can serve as evidence in holding governments and perpetrators accountable for blatant human rights violations. 

Since we launched STOP in 2017, we have tracked internet shutdowns by combining a range of data points, such as first-hand accounts, news articles, official government orders and statements, communications from internet service providers, internet traffic measurements, and claims or denials of responsibility – or absence thereof. In short, STOP aims to paint a complete picture of internet shutdowns, going beyond purely technical data to show how shutdowns are impacting people. You can read more about the STOP methodology used to date here. 

Why are we updating the STOP methodology? 

In the past seven years, the internet shutdown measurement community has greatly expanded its capacity for monitoring, identifying, verifying, and documenting shutdowns. Through STOP, Access Now’s role is to verify, compile, and present all the information we have access to in a way that amplifies and advances our partners’ research and advocacy efforts – and to learn from them along the way about the best way to structure and report on internet shutdown data. Based on these learnings, we’ve refreshed our methodology to better represent the myriad impacts and challenges that internet shutdowns create around the world. 

What updates have you made?

In our new methodology guide, we’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about how exactly we compile data; incorporated comments from partners and other stakeholders; and expanded and edited our existing indicators, metrics, and sources. You can learn more about the details of our methodology, and how it was shaped, in our methodology guide. We have also worked to begin addressing data integrity issues with the STOP dataset and add retrospective shutdown data of select cases to past years. The full dataset and documentation of changes are available here.

How will STOP keep evolving?

We will continue to refine our methodology and dataset in 2024. Whether you’re an activist, technical expert, or academic, if you work on documenting internet shutdowns, we always welcome your engagement and feedback. To get in touch, email #KeepItOn Data Analyst Zach Rosson at [email protected]. To learn more about how STOP data is used, read our 2023 #KeepItOn report on internet shutdowns around the world.