Internet shutdowns pose a new, dangerous threat to progress and the economic advancement of individuals and communities in the 21st century. Shutdowns occur when telecom companies and ISPs are forced to block access to the internet or specific applications or services, like SMS or phone traffic. As a result, repressive, restrictive governments block access to the global marketplace, knowledge, emergency services, and severely undermine individual freedoms - the right to communicate, access information, assemble, and seek economic opportunity. Instead, they create a culture of fear, instability, and economic and social oppression.
Government officials, especially in non-democratic states, order shutdowns during elections, social unrest, public protest, political upheaval, or conflict to limit personal freedom, silence dissent, and undermine the power of the individual and the public voice.
With shutdowns taking place in some of the world's fastest growing and most fragile economies - from India to Pakistan to the DRC, Burundi, Iraq, Egypt, and Syria - the time to act is now. With 56 shutdowns in 2016, and 20 in 2017 in India alone (and more in Ethiopia, Cameroon, Bahrain, and elsewhere) - Access Now has launched and is ready to scale the #KeepItOn project to end shutdowns.
Over the next 18 months, the #KeepItOn Project will utilize the capacity of its advocacy, policy, and technology teams to fight the tide of internet shutdowns and the disruptions to economies and free markets around the world. This work will include:
- Mobilizing an expanded coalition of local, regional, and international civil society groups;
- Securing broad commitments from the tech sector to push back against internet shutdowns;
- Changing international standards and principles at the UN and other international and regional intergovernmental bodies;
- Documenting, technical and otherwise, internet shutdowns and their economic, political, social, and human rights consequences.