GPD and Access Now publish new research paper on internet shutdowns in Africa and the Middle East

9 Mar 2023

new research paper, co-authored by Global Partners Digital and Access Now, explores the way internet shutdowns continue to shroud grave human rights abuses such as electoral interference, police brutality and even war crimes.

It complements the key findings of the 2022 internet shutdowns report, released by Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition last week, focusing on five recent shutdowns in Africa and the Middle East which served to obscure states’ violations of political and physical rights and international humanitarian law.

In our new research paper, we identify common trends across recent shutdowns in Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Iran and Sudan, including a history of state control over information ecosystems and of internet shutdowns, an enabling regulatory and infrastructural environments for state control over the internet, as well as ongoing political instability and conflict. The paper concludes with recommendations for governments, the private sector, regulators and international human rights institutions as to how to call attention to and push back against this trend, and examples of effective advocacy strategies at the domestic and international level. 

Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager and paper contributor, said:

“Internet shutdowns provide a cover for authorities to control narratives and commit egregious violations against people with impunity. Whenever those in power disrupt access to the internet and digital communication platforms during key moments and events, they are taking one step towards authoritarianism, and one away from accountability. When journalists and human rights defenders are blocked, they are unable to fully document and report on real-time events, increasing the  risk of these attacks being underreported if not unnoticed. Internet shutdowns take away agency, and we must put an end to their unbridled use.” 

“Governments should uphold people’s basic human rights, not avoid accountability for abusing them,” said Lea Kaspar, Executive Director at Global Partners Digital. “This research is an important step in documenting the links between state violence and internet shutdowns, and we hope that it will inform and encourage policymakers’ and activists’ advocacy efforts on the topic