Hyderabad: India leads the world with the maximum number of Internet shutdowns with as many as 121 instances this year itself, as reported by Freedom Law Centre’s ‘internetshutdowntracker’, a Delhi-based software company. This number was 70 in 2017. As per the report released Thursday, India’s internet freedom score is down two places to 43. Also Read - Coronavirus: India Registers Highest-Ever Spike of 22,771; Inches Closer to 6.5 Lakh-Mark
While Jammu and Kashmir recorded the highest number of Internet shutdowns with at least 36 documented incidents in 2018, the other states where the Internet was shut down often were Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana and Rajasthan. Also Read - Vaccine by August 15: Covaxin Being Monitored by Top-Most Level of Government, ICMR Writes to Hospitals, Warns Them Against Laxity
The reasons behind shutdowns in India include preventing of riots, incidents of hate crime and even putting a check on cheating in examinations. Reports of arrests for online speech, including for content distributed on WhatsApp and Facebook, were also recorded. Also Read - Era of Expansion is Over, PM Modi's Strong Message to China From Ladakh; Beijng Retorts | Key Points
The report, an annual study of how the government controls freedom of the internet, gives various instances, of which one is a video showing a child being kidnapped in Tamil Nadu. The video went viral on WhatsApp with a warning of kidnappers on the hunt. However, the video is originally an announcement against child kidnapping in Pakistan, stated the report. (Also Read: India witnessed highest number of Internet shutdowns in 2017-18: UNESCO report)
It was also observed that though the Supreme Court judgment made privacy a ‘fundamental right’ in August 2017, it has been “plagued by several security breaches”. The report also quoted researchers who exposed security failures in Aaadhar- which reflected on how Indian authorities were poor custodians of their citizen’s information.
Apart from India, the United States score also rose to 22 from 21 from 2017.
Meanwhile, neighbouring countries like Pakistan scored a 73 (which means the internet is not free), Bangladesh 51 (partially free), Sri Lanka 47 (partially free).
The ‘Freedom on the Net’ report, which looks at Internet freedom in 65 countries, measures the score on three parameters- obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of user rights. It scores countries on a scale of 0 to 100, where a zero score means the country is “most free” and 100 means “least free”.