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‘Reveal details of government demands to shut internet’, says Internet Society

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The Internet Society, which monitors and campaigns for internet access, has welcomed a report from the United Nations (UN, pictured) that condemns shutdowns.

They “create significant obstacles that damage economies, democratic processes, and the flow of information, which may erode trust in electoral processes and increase the likelihood of hostilities and violence”, says Internet Society Pulse, an arm of the society that watches for shutdowns.

The UN report says that internet service providers (ISPs) should reveal details of government requests to restrict access.

In particular the report is critical of a number of planned closures during school exam periods in parts of the world, apparently intended to stop students cheating.

There are eight continuing internet shutdowns, says the Internet Society Pulse, and there have been 18 over the past 12 months.

Syria has one that started on 30 May, and is still active. Sudan also has an active shutdown, that started on 11 June. Meanwhile India has restricted access in parts of the country, a shutdown that started on 2 May and is still going on, more than 10 weeks later.

Closures have “devastating real-life effects … on the lives and rights of millions of people”, says Pulse.

The report that Pulse is commenting on comes from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It notes “the economic impact of internet shutdowns” and notes “that the increasing reliance of businesses and trade on digital technologies means that any disruption to internet access can have disastrous consequences for all economic sectors as well as end-users”.

It adds: “Not only do internet shutdowns disrupt the availability of service platforms and payment systems, they also create uncertainty for investment, which harms businesses in every sector.”

The report calls on ISPs “to help prevent internet shutdowns, within the confines of the law, by sharing information on requests they receive from governments to remove access from citizens with the community in a timely manner”.

The Internet Society says it has “been tracking and documenting internet shutdowns” via Internet Society Pulse since 2019. “We continue to call for government accountability and more transparency around the impact and consequences of internet shutdowns.”

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