Network shutdowns are a growing threat to human rights around the world. In a resolution passed in June 2016, the UN Human Rights Council affirmed that network shutdowns threaten freedom of expression and the right to access information, condemned them to be a violation of international human rights law and called on governments to refrain from taking these actions. Yet governments are increasingly ordering telecommunications companies to shut down their networks, which in turn puts pressure on companies to take actions that violate their responsibility to respect human rights.
Unfortunately, results of our indicator examining network shutdowns reveal that companies are failing to disclose sufficient information about how they handle government shutdown demands.
FF has noted and protested when authorities deliberately cut off Internet access in times of unrest. As a restraint on the freedom of expression of those affected, communication blackouts during protests are unconscionable. But recent research by Anita Gohdes, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Mannheim, suggests that Internet shutdowns are becoming part of a toolkit for more violent repression.