#InternetFreedom: India records world's highest number of internet shutdowns
Internet freedom in India is on the decline, and India topped the world in 2018 in terms of the number of internet shutdowns by government authorities. While data from Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre revealed that India clocked the highest number of internet shutdowns, another report revealed that India had slipped down in terms of internet freedom. Here are the details.
According data from the Software Freedom Law Centre, internet shutdowns in India by government authorities have been on the rise since 2012. While 2012 saw just three shutdowns in the year, the figure subsequently rose to five in 2013, six in 2014, 14 in 2015, 31 in 2016, 79 in 2017, and 121 in 2018 up until October.
In terms of distribution, since 2012, Jammu and Kashmir saw the highest number of internet shutdowns with 112 shutdowns. J&K was followed by Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat and Bihar with 56, 12, 12, 11, and 10 shutdowns respectively.
According to TOI, India saw 16,315 hours of internet shutdowns between 2012 and 2017, at a considerable cost. 12,615 hours of mobile internet shutdowns and 3,700 hours of fixed-line internet shutdowns cost the Indian economy Rs. 16,590cr, and Rs. 4,746cr respectively. Additionally, researchers said that the Central government issues 7,000-8,000 orders per month for phone tapping in India.
Meanwhile, as per the 'Freedom on the Net 2018' report, India's score indicative of freedom on the internet declined. India scored 43 in 2018, as opposed to 41 in 2017, and found itself still in the 'partially free' category. As per the report's scale, a score of 0 means absolute internet freedom, while a score of 100 means no freedom. For comparison, China, the worst, scored 88.
In terms of internet freedom, Estonia and Iceland ranked first with a score of 6, followed by Canada, Germany, Australia, and the USA with scores of 15, 19, 21, and 22 respectively. The worst performers were Cuba, Ethiopia, Syria, Iran, and China, with scores of 79, 83, 83, 85, and 88 respectively.
In India, internet shutdowns were primarily resultant of the government's purported efforts to prevent riots, incidents of hate crime, etc. Notably, the report observed that the Supreme Court's 2017 judgement making privacy a fundamental right was a large boost to internet freedom in India. However, owing to repeated security breaches, the report noted that Indian authorities were "poor custodians of citizens' information".