Internet shut downs are deliberate interruptions in internet connectivity and electronic communications. Shutdowns are a tactic used by governments to thwart opposition.

There’s been a recent flurry of protests myanmar netblocksfingasengadget, with photos and videos of unrest appearing on the internet, along with demands for reform.

However, protesters soon realized that communication was being blocked, using popular messaging apps such as Whatsapp as well as Signal not connecting. In several areas the internet was shut down completely off the internet.

Internet shutdowns are a typical strategy used by governments to thwart dissent and avert tensions. In 2021, at the very least 182 shutdowns of the internet were recorded across 34 nations, as per Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition, which is an international organization of digital advocacy organizations.

The practice has also been cited as a significant human rights concern and many argue that the shutdown of websites is an infringement of freedom of assembly and expression.

What are the ways governments can shut down the internet?

While internet networks are often vast and complex, deliberately shutting down the internet is simple for governments–especially for more authoritarian states that maintain broad control over the private sector.

“For many years, internet shut downs have been too simple to government officials to take, and also too simple for them to carry out,” said Felicia Anthonio who is the campaign manager for #KeepItOn for Access Now. Access Now.

In conjunction with private and public internet service providers and utility companies can shut down the internet in a variety of ways. For instance, they can shut off power lines or take down internet infrastructure, such as cell phone towers as well as fiber optic cable. Domain name and network routers systems are also manipulated. In turn, these methods involve blocking the flow of content through important gateways to networks, effectively blocking all internet traffic as well as redirecting the traffic from the intended websites.

The government can also limit access to certain websites or platforms for communication, such as Facebook, Telegram or WhatsApp–by blocking certain websites or IP addresses. Distributed denial of service attacks, which involve blocking internet access by overloading servers with a flood of data, could be used, too. For instance, governments have blocked access to websites like Google and YouTube in opposition speeches, according to the Internet Freedom Tracking group NetBlocks.

“The way in which internet disruptions occur could provide some clues to the motives behind the shutoff,” said Gretchen Bueermann an expert at the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity. “For instance, certain types of disruptions are fairly simple to navigate for an individual who is technologically knowledgeable and others are almost impossible to circumvent, which reveals a government’s desire to shut down critical infrastructure for the sake of controlling.”

Furthermore, governments can also impose shut downs that slow the internet to a point where it is unusable. This is known as throttling, and typically involves the limitation of bandwidth capabilities. Throttling, in particular, can render sharing live streams, which are essential components of contemporary protests–nearly impossible. The year 2021 was the last time Access Now recorded throttling in at minimum 10 countries.

“Again and time again, we’re witnessing governments sabotaging people with their darkest secrets in times when they require access to information and communications platforms at the highest level,” Anthonio added.

What impact will the shutdown of the internet have on society?

Internet access is now an vital aspect of the daily life of many people around the globe. In 2016, in fact, the United Nations declared that it believes that internet access to be a basic human right.

Many critics argue that Internet shutdowns constitute an infringement of civil liberties since they hinder the ability of people to gather and block the free circulation of data. This could allow dictatorial governments to shut down critics and create echo chambers of information that are distorted.

“Shutting off the internet does not just hinders citizens’ ability to access vital information and to communicate with each with each other, but also obscures the region from outsiders and creates a pathway of least resistance to false information, disinformation and malicious propagandism,” Bueermann said.

Internet shut downs are also an collective punishment, adversely impacting not just political adversaries and protest groups , but also society in general. This is particularly worrying experts say, considering the widespread dependence on the internet. These consequences can hinder the delivery of lifesaving medical care in hospitals and disrupting education. In the COVID-19 pandemic for instance, researchers discovered that learning via remote was hindered by the shutdown of internet across Bangladesh, Myanmar and India.

“Shutdowns limit a variety of rights for humans, ranging from freedom of speech and peaceful assembly to social and economic rights since people depend on the internet to support their lives as well as education and health,” said Deborah Brown who is a senior researcher in technology and advocate for Human Rights Watch. “What’s more, closing down internet access and other communications networks could cost lives, particularly during times of unrest or an emergency medical emergency.”

Internet shut downs can have a significant impact on businesses too. In Myanmar, for instance, the government has imposed numerous internet shut downs during the aftermath of the military coup that took place in February 2021. According to the World Bank estimates that the shut downs cost Myanmar’s economy around $2.8 billion.

A different study revealed that between the years 2019 and 2021 the shutdown of internet services in 46 countries caused losses of more than $20.5 billion, as per the United Nations.

Initiatives to reduce the number of internet shut downs

The frequency and length of shutdowns on the internet are growing experts claim. However, so are attempts to track and avoid the shutdowns.

This is largely due to technological advancements that allow alternative internet connections using devices such as virtual private networks, and monitoring platforms that monitor the manipulation of websites and monitor.

Governments and technology companies are also working together to fight the issue of internet shut downs. Google for instance, has taken steps to improve its internet connectivity in the last month, after protesters were hit with a series of shut downs. The move came after the relaxation of the sanctions from the United States to allow more internet-based communication to be flowed.