The internet is generally perceived to be free and open, but the increasing efforts of governments and big corporations across the world, to control the way the internet works has shown us that the reality is far removed from the cyber-utopianism, some want us to believe.
In recent years, a number of countries have blocked websites, shut down mobile telecommunications services, or disrupted the entire internet, raising concerns, not only over the working of a democratic society but also over the “gradual normalisation of the mindset that permits such blanket restriction on Internet access.”
In India, there have been 46 such instances this year alone. While most of these curtailments were enforced in the conflict-ridden state of Jammu and Kashmir, states like Maharashtra, Bihar and Haryana also witnessed partial or complete disruption of internet services for days.
According to the New Delhi-based non-profit organisation, Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), “most of these orders for Internet shut down are given under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which authorises state governments to take action to curb unlawful assemblies or to prevent apprehended danger.”
Although the United Nations Human Rights Council, considers access to internet as fundamental human right, which forms the core of any democratic framework, a Special Leave Petition (SLP) challenging the use of the state’s provision for restricting access to the internet filed earlier this year in the Supreme Court, was dismissed by the Apex Court, stating that the use of such mechanisms becomes necessary for law and order situations.
The SFLC, which is a donor-supported legal services organisation that brings together lawyers, policy analysts, technologists, and students to protect freedom, has taken great strides in tracking Internet shutdowns in the country.
Its tracker keeps a record of all such instances and is updated real time. Take a look.