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Blocking Communication - A perspective from India : The Beginning

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

When Alexander Graham Bell invented in 1876, it literally changed how we communicate with each other. Then in 1971 we saw the first email being sent, closely followed by the development of what we would know as the Internet today. And since 2001 we have steadily invested in how we communicate with each other using telecommunication and internet. Both include landline, mobile, and internet connectivity. Today this shapes how we communicate with each other in our society and the ISP and Telecom Companies are the backbones which provide the service. Which also makes them a single choking point if somebody wants to regulate the communication.

Governments across the world are increasingly resorting to Internet shutdowns (also referred to as Internet blackouts) for a wide range of reasons, all with the objective of controlling the exchange of information online. The frequent resort to Internet shutdowns by the State as a mitigation and prevention strategy, mostly in the developing countries is a cause of concern. Between January 2012 and May 1, 2018, India has experienced 174 Internet shutdowns for various reasons and durations across 19 of the 29 states in the country. Most of these shutdowns are invoked using Section 144 which essentially states “temporary measures to maintain public tranquility” and gives State Governments the “power to issue orders for immediate remedy in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger”.

If we start charting out the shutdown in India, we will see a disturbing trend.


This clearly shows that the number of internet shutdowns have only increased since 2012 in India. If we look at what kind of services were affected


Once we take into account this disturbing trend it becomes clear that censorship and legal avenues are being used to curb freedom of speech. We will take about a potential solution to this in our next post.

If you want to see all the Internet shutdowns till 2018, look at the following document collected by SFLC, where most of the data for this post is collected from. We will talk about our primary motivation and a potential solution in our follow-up blog post


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