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August 24th, 2021

Internet shutdowns quash democracy. This NGO fights to stop them

topic: Democracy
type: Campaign, NGO
by: Quinta Thomson

During the first five months of 2021, at least 50 internet shutdowns were recorded in 21 countries around the world. 

Internet shutdowns are a sure sign of authoritarian governance. As seen in Cuba’s recent internet shutdown, the mediums used to organise protest and generate freedom of speech are silenced when an internet blackout occurs. It could be argued to be one of the most effective methods of stifling government criticism and freedom of speech. 

This is also evident through the actions of India’s ruling party, which currently tops the chart globally for the highest number of internet shutdowns.  

Access Now is a non-profit that seeks to “defend and extend the digital rights of users at risk around the world.” 

The organisation focuses on aiding civil society groups, activists, journalists and human rights defenders. With mobilisation on five areas of problem: privacy, freedom of expression, digital security, business and human rights and net discrimination, the NGO is tackling the largest issues around internet control. 

In creating the Shutdown Tracker Optimizer Project (STOP) that aims to document and contextualise internet shutdown cases around the world, Access Now is able to find the justification, method and perpetrator of internet blackouts. This not only places pressure on governments to carry out internet shutdowns as a last resort, but is also creating a culture where shutdowns are recognised as human rights abuses having severe and damaging impacts. 

As internet shutdowns are becoming more sophisticated and widespread and increasingly target vulnerable groups, the organisation’s campaign, the #KeepItOn coalition is working to fight every shutdown and emerging challenges in 2021. 

To “join the fight” with Access Now you can sign up to its newsletter and visit its website to read blogs and information about ongoing campaigns. 

Spreading the word about the organisation and the #KeepItOn campaign further promotes awareness of internet shutdowns and the action that needs to take place to prevent them. 

Image by: Markus Spiske. 

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