Through the campaign, the activists aim to demonstrate that internet shutdowns are not really effective and create huge disruptions in the lives of people.
The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), comprising of technologists, lawyers, journalists and activists who believe in a free and fair internet, have launched a new campaign today against internet shutdowns in India.
The IFF, which has previously successfully campaigned against the erosion of Net Neutrality in India by telecom companies offering differential pricing for data-based services, and fought internet giant Facebook over its launch of Free Basics in India, has taken up the issue of internet shutdowns in India as its next campaign.
The campaign will take the form of a petition to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (with copies to Union Minister for IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad, and Minister of State for IT, Manoj Sinha) asking the Union government to introduce credible measures to stop the indiscriminate usage of internet shutdowns for reasons such as preventing riots, national security, and even to prevent cheating in exams. Through the campaign, the activists aim to demonstrate that these measures are actually not effective, and that internet shutdowns create huge disruptions in the lives of ordinary people in an increasingly digital-dependent world.
“There is little evidence that riots are actually stopped by Internet shutdowns. Misinformation spreads when credible sources are inaccessible; the Internet, like other mass media, is a powerful tool to restore order. Bangalore police understands this well — during the Kaveri riots in 2016, they used Twitter and WhatsApp effectively to prevent panic and highlight police presence in volatile areas,” says the petition.
Alongside, the IFF has also roped in well-known Indian comedy collective All India Bakchod (AIB) to create a video on internet shutdowns in India, and this will also go live on Hotstar today. During the ‘Save the Internet’ campaign too, AIB had collaborated with IFF to create a viral video talking about the benefits of net neutrality.
The IFF has decided to focus on internet shutdowns because of several reasons, such as the fact that India had more Internet shutdowns in 2016 than any other country, and research estimates show that this caused us a loss of more than Rs. 6000 crores. As stated earlier, the IFF (supported by research done by independent organisations such as the Centre for Internet and Society, Access Now, and Internet Democracy Project) does not believe that there is enough evidence to support the efficacy of internet shutdowns to battle misinformation or to prevent violence.
Within less than three months, there have been six internet shutdowns in India so far in 2017. A report by the Brookings Institute shows that there were 22 instances of the government shutting down the internet in India in 2016: the highest of any country in the world.
The IFF believes that internet shutdowns are “a threat to human rights around the world. They harm everyone: businesses, emergency services, journalism, human rights defenders, and demonstrators.”
Which is why it is seeking public support for its campaign through the petition aimed at the Prime Minister’s Office.
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