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Number of Internet Shutdowns in 2017–18 higher than previously reported: RTI

In response to an RTI application filed by the Software Freedom Law Centre, the Rajasthan government’s home department revealed that there were nine shutdowns in 2017 that were previously unreported. The SFLC runs an internet shutdowns tracker based on news media reports, and has updated its numbers retroactively to reflect the change, they revealed in a blog post. The RTI response also revealed twelve unreported shutdowns in 2018, bringing the total this year so far to 84 in the country. With this response, the number of shutdowns in 2018 for the entire country so far has exceeded the total number of reported shutdowns in all of 2017.

Data of previously unreported shutdowns in other states is still awaited, and could boost these numbers further. Here’s a comparison of SFLC’s tracker before and after the disclosure of unreported shutdowns in Rajasthan:

Note: The 2018 number increased by 14 rather than 12 due to two new shutdowns.

Shutdowns in Rajasthan

Rajasthan has the second highest number of internet shutdowns in the country, only behind Jammu & Kashmir. From communal disturbances to cheating in exams, the Rajasthan government has shut down mobile internet services for a wide variety of reasons. Sharat Kaviraj, known as the IT Supercop of Rajasthan, said over the phone at a MediaNama open house discussion on Internet shutdowns that, these are difficult decisions to take.

“This system is forced upon us by the fact that a lot of people deliberately, and sometimes without understanding the consequences, forward all kinds of messages which are able to create a situation which is explosive,” Kaviraj said. In the months that followed, the Rajasthan government has suspended internet on average once a month, and one of the times it was to prevent cheating in a police recruitment exam — twice on two consecutive days.

The northeastern state of Manipur is currently under the third day of a five-day internet shutdown imposed by the state government to prevent violence triggered by provocative videos and messages circulating on social media. The immediate trigger was a confrontation between the police and protesters in support of a 48-hour general strike called by Manipur University Student’s Union (MUSU). Meanwhile, an order for a state-wide internet suspension has been issued in Arunachal Pradesh to prevent cheating in the upcoming state public services commission exam on July 29.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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