Hyderabad: India has the highest number of instances of internet shutdowns in the world. With profanity, hate and rumour-mongering increasing on the internet, officials have been ordering internet shutdowns to contain law and order.
India has witnessed 52 shutdowns so far this year against 70 last year according to the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), a not-for-profit organization. In Telangana state, the internet was shut down in December 2017 in Adilabad as a precautionary measure in the wake of clashes between Adivasis and Lambadas and to curb the rumors being spread on social networking. There were no instances of shutdown in Andhra Pradesh.
The graphic violence on social media is not being curtailed even if Facebook and Twitter make futile attempts to stop spreading of misinformation, as messages on individual apps cannot be curtailed.
According to Facebook, the world saw more graphic violence in 2018 compared to previous quarters. Consequently, these shutdowns are happening as part of precautionary measure when law and order cannot be being maintained.
A CID official said “In the case of social media, speed is the criteria not the character of the medium. Information spreads fast and logical thinking takes a toll, creating panic. When it comes to internet, things keep circulating till you read it. And immediate reaction will have dire consequences based on information which is unfounded and not concrete”.
The official said such shutdown were not mandatory but put in place only when the administration cannot control emotional and panic situations.
While the internet is a public service and shutdowns are done when necessary, an activist points that shutdowns are increasing every year, which is not a good trend.
Mr Prashanth Sugathan, SLFC legal director, said, “When we are talking about providing all services on the digital platform, disconnecting people is disconnecting from essential services. Even the UN has termed access to internet as as a human right. There is an immediate need to weigh options and see if shutting down internet has helped in anyway”.