As 2G returns to Kashmir after 5 months, these are some strong arguments against internet shutdowns in the future

As 2G returns to Kashmir after 5 months, these are some strong arguments against internet shutdowns in the future
Many Kashmiris residing in Bengaluru along with activists and volunteers gathered at Town Hall to protest against the shut down in Kashmir following scrapping of Article 370 and demanded that internet and mobile phone connections to be restored immediately in August 2019BCCL

  • Internet shutdowns can do more harm than good even when implemented in the name of 'national security'.
  • The Indian Supreme Court recently ruled that internet blackouts in Jammu and Kashmir are 'against the constitution'.
  • Marietje Schaake, president of the Cyberpeace Institute, believes internet shutdowns are eroding fundamental rights and have huge consequences for individual security.
If you're in a crowd that has a demonstration and you're worried that something might happen to someone, can you call an ambulance? Can you find a route out of the place? Internet shutdowns can have a lot of negative and harmful consequences for innocent individuals who don't necessarily pose a threat to 'national security', Marietje Schaake, president of the Netherlands-based Cyberpeace Institute.

As 2G returns to Kashmir after 5 months, these are some strong arguments against internet shutdowns in the future
Marietje Schaake, president of the Cyberpeace Institute at the Raisina Dialogue 2020ORF

The statement comes after a 5-month long internet shut down in Kashmir ended after the Supreme Court's verdict on Friday. However, her comments were in a larger context of governments cracking down on the internet at the drop of a hat.

Advertisement
As 2G returns to Kashmir after 5 months, these are some strong arguments against internet shutdowns in the future
Journalists protest the internet shutdown in Kashmir in JanuaryBCCL

"I think internet shutdowns are very problematic. They are hardly ever anchored in rule-of-law principles or in any kind of mechanisms where victims can have avenues of redress," Schaake said during the Raisina Dialogue 2020 today.

The Indian Supreme Court just laid down the bottom line on the importance of the internet as a fundamental right
On Friday, The Supreme Court of India ruled that the internet blackouts in Jammu and Kashmir are ' against the constitution', asking the government to review its restrictive orders.

The judges observed that use of the internet is protected by the constitution, even though it may not be outrightly spelt out. In addition to being essential for businesses, the internet is protected under the ambit of freedom of expression and speech.
Advertisement


As 2G returns to Kashmir after 5 months, these are some strong arguments against internet shutdowns in the future
Protests by people in Jammu and Kashmir after 100 days of no internet services in the regionBCCL

National security vs personal security
Governments generally cite 'national security' as the primary reason for shutting off the internet in select regions from time to time. However, in places of unrest, lack of access to the internet can be a threat to individual security. "I think it's a very disproportionate and often unnecessary measure that has huge consequences for people on the ground. It can be very distressing.

As explained above, shutting down an avenue of communication can lead to people being blocked off from emergency services.

Advertisement
Even democratic countries are throttling internet freedom
As the Supreme Court of India pointed out, internet shutdowns affect individual liberty — a trend that's on the rise globally.

India's been in the spotlight for two consecutive years for having the highest number of internet shutdowns globally — 134 instances in 2018 and 103 in 2019. Even China's taken notice and used it to endorse its own policies. However, even in the name of national security, internet shutdowns pose a very real threat.

The effect of suppressing freedom of expression is reflected in India's ranking 140th out of 180 countries on the global press freedom index — an annual assessment conducted by Reporters Without Borders.

Advertisement
Schaake pointed out that many countries around the world that claim to be democratic display a surge of undemocratic behaviour."I think we need to wake up to the fact that if we're going to take a global approach to this, democracies today are not in the majority," claimed Schaake.

Internet for surveillance ⁠— the unsettled question in law
Internet shutdowns are only one part of the problem. Surveillance technology is also being used for nefarious purposes.

The same tool that people use to express themselves on social media can, in turn, be used to track those individuals, hack into systems, or target human rights defenders. "The strength and deepening of respect for people's human rights and democratic rights in the evolution of institutions are so important. I think, therefore, it's also imp to look at what's not going well precisely because the future of this country will have ripple effects throughout the world," she said.

Advertisement
See also:
Indian government shut off the Internet over a 100 times in 2019 — and China is lovin' it

Supreme Court calls Jammu and Kashmir's internet shutdown 'against the constitution'

Indian data laws have an uncanny resemblance to Russia's 'new' internet and China's 'Great Firewall'


{{}}