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Internet Shutdowns Now ‘Entrenched’ in Certain Regions: UN Expert

Publié le Vendredi 2 Juillet 2021 | MAP

Geneva - The practice of shutting down internet and mobile phone access to stifle dissent has become “entrenched” and more sophisticated in a growing number of countries as governments seek to retain power, a top UN-appointed independent human rights expert said on Thursday. Addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Special Rapporteur Clement Voule warned that shutdowns are now “lasting longer” and “becoming harder to detect”.

The tactics were not limited to authoritarian regimes either, he insisted. “Shutdowns have been observed in long-established democracies and more recent democracies alike, in line with broader trends of democratic recession across the world,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Worryingly, security services have honed their techniques in recent years by “throttling” bandwidth in specific areas to prevent demonstrators communicating with each other before or during protests. They targeted “particular social media and messaging applications and specific localities and communities”, Mr. Voule said, adding that disruption to internet access has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic and impeded people’s access to essential health services.

“Shutdowns can …range from large-scale complete disconnection of the internet and mobile networks to other network disruptions, including the blocking of particular services or applications, such as social media platforms and messaging apps and throttling or the slowing down internet traffic to impede connectivity,” the rights expert explained in his report, Ending Internet Shutdowns: A Path Forward. According to data from the non-governmental organisation #KeepItOn Coalition, the Special Rapporteur highlighted at least 768 government-ordered internet disruptions in more than 60 countries since 2016.

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